NORWALK – “Our whole life changed in a second,” says Noelle Kaczmarczyk, explaining the event in June 2018 when her husband, John, was taking out recyclables and involved in a freak accident. “He fell backwards. We think he fell backwards on our staircase. We didn’t see him fall – we found him at the bottom of the stairs.”
The volunteer firefighter was out cold. Noelle and her son rushed to help. “When he picked him up, he saw the blood and said, ‘Mom, this isn’t good,'” remembers Noelle.
“He had a squished head with blood coming out – he was in bad shape,” says Dr. Scott Sanderson, a neurosurgeon who works at both Danbury and Norwalk Hospitals.
The then 58-year-old was taken to Norwalk Hospital’s trauma center for emergency surgery to treat the severe traumatic brain injury. “This is putting Humpty Dumpty back together, right?” says Sanderson, as he looks back on scans, showing the brain bleed.
He repaired Kaczmarczyk’s fractured skull with plates and screws. “His trauma team – including the physician’s assistant, physicians, ER nurses and ER doctors – they recognize a true emergency and they move very swiftly,” says Sanderson, giving credit to the team.
Then, the long, uncertain recovery process began. Kaczmarzyk headed to an inpatient rehab facility to learn everything all over again. “Everything was touch and go because I had speech, balance, partial paralysis on my whole left side,” he says.
“I didn’t know what my life was going to look like but I didn’t look ahead,” says Noelle. “I just lived in the moment which is what you have to do, is just be in the moment.”
With grueling work, family support and intense faith, Kaczmarczyk is doing great, living with a slight limp. He’s called a “Walking Miracle” and, like his friends in rehab who suffered similar odd incidents, he now doesn’t take one day for granted.
“We all said the same thing, ‘We’re lucky to be alive,’ and here we are,” says Kaczmarczyk who has a goal: he hopes to take part in the Tunnels to Towers Walk next September to support firefighters and their families, affected by 9-11.
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