EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first article in a three-part series about emergency room Dr. Gary Witman's accident last summer during a day at the beach that went horribly wrong.
By Lisa E. Crowley
One rogue ocean wave in Rhode Island last August 31 forever changed the life of Dr. Gary Witman, an emergency room doctor at Brockton’s Good Samaritan Medical Center, who in one surge of Mother Nature’s power has gone from a leading ER doctor to struggling quadriplegic—not only fighting for his life and to walk again, but also fighting for the medical care and denials of that care from health insurance companies.
“I only go to the beach once a year—and that day was it,” Witman said after a recent session at Braintree Rehabilitation Hospital, where he is undergoing extensive physical and occupational therapies.
Sometimes it is difficult for him to speak—although speaking is progress—and he practically lives in an electrified wheelchair that is now the only means for Witman to get around.
He uses a "puffer," or strawlike device to operate the wheelchair, and his wife of 36 years, Diane, better known as Dee Dee, is constantly on the move helping him with all of the once-taken-for-granted needs of everyday life from helping Witman eat, drink, bathe, change clothes, get in and out of bed, and run the household.
"This isn't love--it's more than love," Dee Dee said, as she wiped a drip from Gary's mouth as juice spilled from his lips and down his face.
"This is like--I love him, but I like him, too. This is companionship, friendship--this is committment," she said.
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