When medical providers and those who serve the healthcare industry enter the field as patients, it's often an eye-opening experience that offers a renewed sense of purpose for what they do each day.
With offices in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Georgia, HMP is a multi-channel leader in healthcare meetings, content, and education. As the parent company of EMS World, HMP publishes a catalog of healthcare publications and hosts a series of medical events such as Consultant360, Psych Congress and the Symposium on Advanced Wound Care. With a strong foothold across multiple therapeutic platforms, the company produces accredited continuing medical education events and clinically relevant, evidence-based content for the healthcare community across a range of therapeutic areas.
On the afternoon of June 20, 2019, Jeff Hennessy, CEO of HMP, was driving home from HMP’s East Windsor, NJ office during a summer rainstorm. As he got to within a mile of his home, the wind began to pick up, and Hennessy noticed a large branch that had fallen across the road in front of him. “I remember trying to drive around it,” he recalls. "I really wasn't too concerned at that point."
Then, just 15 yards down the road past the fallen branch, “The car just exploded."
‘Like Time Slowed Down’
For the first 15 seconds or so, Hennessy didn’t know what happened. As his senses gradually returned, he came to realize that another branch had dropped directly on top of his car, smashing the top center of the vehicle and crushing him underneath. Hennessy recalls seeing tree branches inches in front of his face and his shoulder in extreme pain.
As he wrestled with maintaining consciousness, Hennessy's first instinct was to get out of the car. At that point, two passersby approached to make sure he was OK and to get him to sit down in his back seat (there was no room to sit down in the front).
One young man asked his name, where he lived, and whom he could call on Hennessy’s behalf. “I realized he was trying to keep me awake,” says Hennessy, crediting the young man and a female good Samaritan who kept him dry with an umbrella as the “first human contact with the chain of the healthcare system.” He spoke with his wife on the phone as state troopers, the fire department and EMS crews from the Millstone Township Volunteer First Aid Squad arrived quickly. The crews had to cut through the tree branch to reach him.
“I was fading in and out,” Hennessy remembers of the critical early minutes as EMS assessed his condition and prepared him for transport. While he was able to get to the stretcher under his own power, he began to notice severe back pain in addition to not being able to control his arm and shoulder. He was placed in a collar and transported to the emergency department of Centra State Medical Center in nearby Freehold, arriving in just minutes.
“The EMTs took care of me beautifully,” says Hennessy. “They reassured me on the ride to the ER and waited with me until I was handed off to the ER staff. They were professional and courteous throughout the time I was in their care."
Surgery and Rehab
Hennessy soon learned he had sustained a fractured C5 vertebra, and considers himself “extremely fortunate” that it wasn’t more dire. Spinal cord injury at the C5 level can result in significant impairments to mobility and activities of daily living.
Following an overnight stay at Centra State, an ambulance transport was arranged to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia the following morning. “That crew also did an amazing job of getting me from one point to the next,” Hennessy says of his interfacility transport team, hailing them as the often-unheralded segment of the EMS system. “They were very focused on relieving my pain.” While HMP’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Division is dedicated to educating healthcare leaders on strategies to combat substance abuse and addiction, Hennessy’s experience offered a unique perspective on the valuable role of effective pain control in the face of trauma.
"So much of what we do in our events is targeted to the negative aspect of opioids," he states. "It's important to remember the need that these medicines fill for the people who truly do need them."
A 90-minute surgery June 23 removed bone chips, released compressed nerves in his shoulder, and fused and stabilized three vertebral disks. He remained in a neck brace for approximately six weeks and continues rehabilitation and regular checkups. While his shoulder pain has mostly resolved, the nerves in his neck continue to regenerate, and full shoulder strength may take up to a year to return, if fully at all. Regardless, he feels “more blessed than anything, considering what I went through.”
From the good Samaritans who first approached him following the accident, to the neurology, surgical and nursing teams in the hospital, to the aftercare he continues to receive from his rehabilitation team, Hennessy stresses the high-quality treatment he received from the entire care continuum and credits them for his ongoing successes, both small and significant.
“High-quality care throughout the entire chain of healthcare can be a matter of life or death, full recovery or partial recovery,” he wrote in a company-wide e-mail. "There are so many amazingly talented and dedicated professionals throughout the healthcare care chain." And it’s given him a renewed focus on the power of his position to educate and inspire today's healthcare providers.
“It centers you,” he says of his experience. “It forces you to take stock and you realize what’s important and what’s not. You just never know when one crazy, sudden experience could change the direction of your life. Please remember to appreciate your loved ones and your coworkers.”