January 4, 2008 in Nation/World

NYC man survives 47-story plummet

David B. Caruso Associated Press
 

NEW YORK – Doctors say they have never seen anything like it: A window washer who fell 47 stories from the roof of a Manhattan skyscraper is now awake, talking to his family and expected to walk again.

Alcides Moreno, 37, plummeted almost 500 feet in a Dec. 7 scaffolding collapse that killed his brother.

Somehow, Moreno lived, and doctors at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center announced Thursday that his recovery has been astonishing.

He has movement in all his limbs. He is breathing on his own. And on Christmas Day, he opened his mouth and spoke for the first time since the accident.

His wife, Rosario Moreno, cried as she thanked the doctors and nurses who kept him alive.

“Thank God for the miracle that we had,” she said.

Dr. Herbert Pardes, the hospital’s president, described Moreno’s condition when he arrived for treatment as “a complete disaster.”

Both legs and his right arm and wrist were broken in several places. He had severe injuries to his chest, his abdomen and his spinal column. His brain was bleeding. Everything was bleeding, it seemed.

In those first critical hours, doctors pumped 24 units of donated blood into his body – about twice his entire blood volume.

They gave him plasma and platelets and a drug to stimulate clotting and stop the hemorrhaging. They inserted a catheter into his brain to reduce swelling and cut open his abdomen to relieve pressure on his organs.

Moreno was at the edge of consciousness when he was brought in. Doctors sedated him, performed a tracheotomy and put him on a ventilator.

Nine orthopedic operations followed to piece together his broken body.

Yet, even when things were at their worst, the hospital’s staff marveled at his luck.

Incredibly, Moreno’s head injuries were relatively minor for a fall victim. Neurosurgeon John Boockvar said the window washer also managed to avoid a paralyzing spinal cord injury, even though he suffered a shattered vertebra.

Science may never be able to explain what protected Moreno when the platform he and his brother were using atop an Upper East Side apartment tower broke free and fell to the ground.

Edgar Moreno, 30, of Linden N.J., died instantly.

Alcides Moreno, whom his wife described as strong and athletic, may have clung to his scaffolding platform as it dropped. It is possible that the metal platform offered him some protection, although doctors said they were unsure how. Rosario Moreno said that her husband remembers little of the fall.

Moreno will remain in the hospital for at least a few more weeks, doctors said. After that, he will need extensive physical rehabilitation. It may be another year before doctors know how much he will improve.

Doctors said they believe he will walk, but they also suggested that some of his injuries are likely to be lifelong.

Rosario Moreno said she knows this much for sure: His days as a window washer are over. “I told him, ‘You’re not going back to work there,’ ” she said.

© Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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