Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Twist Of Fate Turns Good Samaritan ER Doc's Life Upside Down
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a three-part series about Good Samaritan Medical Center emergency room Dr. Gary Witman, who last August was paralyzed by a wave during a day at the beach in Rhode Island.
Click here to read the first article...
To follow Dr. Witman's personal blog, "The Life & Spines of Dr. Gary Witman," click here...
By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—On Aug. 31, 2010, Good Samaritan Medical Center emergency room Dr. Gary Witman and his wife Dianne, better known as Dee Dee, visited some friends at a private section of Narragansett Beach in Rhode Island for his once-per-year visit to the ocean.
“Gary doesn’t like the beach. I love skiing. You don’t know how many accidents we’ve had (skiing),” Dee Dee said. “There’s so much irony in all of this,” she said.
Gary doesn’t particularly care for the beach and only goes once a year. Dee Dee loves the ocean and her friends had a cabana on a private section of Narragansett Beach that the Witmans once-visited regularly until the town banned those not living in town from the privilege about 6 or 7 years ago.
The Witmans hadn’t been back to Narragansett Beach since the Town of Narragansett excluded non-residents from the section with cabanas.
Gary agreed to what was expected to be a fun Tuesday visiting with beloved friends from Pittsburgh, gabbing about family triumphs and disappointments, and splashing around in the beach’s waves that children and adults alike grab bogey boards and surf boards to ride the surges to shore.
It never crossed their minds one rogue wave, a day at the beach, would turn their lives upside down.
“Never, never, never take anything for granted,” Dee Dee said.
In many ways the Witmans were living the good life, an upper middle class, bordering on wealthy, American dream.
Gary, a much respected emergency room doctor at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton since 1997, worked as a resident at Brown University, and put people back together as an overnight shift emergency room intern--when he met Dee Dee also a working student. Witman worked the overnight shift at Good Samaritan until his accident.
His salary and private investments, and Dee Dee’s position as a political consultant afforded the family a beautiful home in Providence, the opportunity to send all three of their children, Samantha, 32, Zachary, 29, and Amanda Rose, 26, to college, and watch them build families of their own.
The couple enjoyed traveling and dinner parties and Dee Dee’s involvement as a volunteer in Rhode Island made the pair—both down-to-earth and funny-- an admired and well-liked two-some.
While there are still parties and the Witmans still travel—some for therapies and some for family events like oldest daughter Samantha’s recent wedding in Los Angeles—it is all much different, much more difficult, and much, much slower.
“It was such a freak accident, but we are living with it, we’re adjusting,” Dee Dee said after a recent physical therapy session at Braintree Rehabilitation Hospital, where Gary visits two or three times a week and travels 60-90 minutes from their home in Providence to Braintree or Boston University Medical Center for therapy unavailable in their home state.
“One day at a time,” Dee Dee said.
A year later, as Gary fights to regain some of his old life, now without the use of his arms and legs and confined to a wheelchair, and Dee Dee attends him 24-7 helping him eat, drink, bathe, change clothes, and nearly every other daily activity the vibrant couple once so easily enjoyed—they wonder why it all happened and have been spooked by some ironies and coincidences.
“It was a quiet day. The waves were quiet. They weren’t surging,” Dee Dee said, unusual for a beach with an ever-present instructor who offers surf lessons by the half-hour and hour.
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