A Remarkable Recovery

Early in the morning of December 6th, 2008 while most people on Long Island were still sleeping, Philip Schleede was being rushed to Brookhaven Hospital having been involved in a car accident that would almost end his life. Driving on Montauk Highway, Philip hit a patch of ice and hit a tree. He was ejected from the car and thrown over 100 feet, suffering a broken upper and lower back, 6 broken ribs, a broken shoulder blade, and a fractured spine.

Dr. Steven Leon of Long Island Neuroscience Specialists, was at Brookhaven Hospital when Philip Schleede was brought in by ambulance. By late that afternoon, Dr. Leon and his partner, Dr. Sumeer Sathi had completed surgery on Philip to fuse his spine using an iliac graft to stabilize Philip’s spine and help relieve pressure on his spinal column. Staff at Brookhaven Hospital made the gravity of Philip’s situation clear to his mother immediately. When he was initial brought in “they made it clear that it was very chancy and they didn’t know what the outcome would be,” says Mrs. Schleede. “There were no guarantees. He had so many different things going on at that point that they were just hoping he would get through the surgery.” Once the surgery was complete, Philip still wasn’t out of the woods. “Initially… they were seeing some movement with his right leg, but nothing with the left leg for about two weeks.” Mrs. Schleede feared that Philip might be partially paralyzed. “You don’t want to think that, but you know, it’s a possibility,” she says.

Philip has had five different surgeries since the accident, and has more scheduled in the future. He still suffers numbness and some weakness in his left arm, and still undergoes physical therapy once a week, however, even Philip is amazed at how quickly he’s recovered in the eight months since his accident. When asked if he feels inhibited, he says “compared to how I was in February, I feel recovered. The way [physical therapy] is going now, I feel like in the next year I won’t be doing anything [anymore.]”

Philip’s recovery has been so remarkable that he currently works doing maintenance at a horse barn. His mother considers it another form of physical therapy for him. “It’s a lot of work. Phil is tired at the end of the day.”

Mrs. Schleede accredits Dr. Leon’s surgical skills, and excellent bedside manner with the ease of Philips remarkable recovery. “He has a wonderful, wonderful bedside manner,” she says. “He’s just a great, great person, besides a doctor. My husband and I felt very confident and very comfortable and we knew that whatever the outcome would be, that he was 100% doing everything that he could and he was making whatever could happen, happen. He really did such a fabulous job.”

Philip’s pediatrician, Dr. Julia A. Fahey, upon being notified of Philip’s admittance to Brookhaven Hospital further bolstered the Schleede’s confidence in Dr. Leon. Mrs. Schleede recalls asking Dr. Fahey if it would be better for Philip to be moved to a level one trauma center in Nassau County. “I had asked them if there was any chance that we could get him into Nassau County, into the big medical center there, the doctor (Fahey) said “listen, Dr. Leon is on, and he is wonderful. I would trust him with my own child, anybody’s child. This is all worked out for you that he is the one that is going to be doing this surgery, this is meant to be that he stays right here.” That was enough for the Schleede’s to let Dr. Leon do his work. “We could have, before Philip had his third surgery with Dr. Leon, we could have switched him to Stony Brook because they called and said ‘we have room for him, would you like him to be moved now,’ and my husband and I said “no, not until Dr. Leon is done with the surgeries. There’s no way someone else is coming in here and picking up, this is it. This is how confident we were.” Mrs. Schleede went on to praise the staff at Brookhaven Hospital as well. “They did a great job. The girls, the nurses in the ICU were very attentive, the doctors were very attentive, everybody did a great job.”

Philip is currently taking time off of school to continue working at the stable until he decides on a career path. “I like dealing with people,” he says “I’m a good people person. Maybe [I’ll do] sales of some sort. I’m not really sure. Thankfully, due to the care Philip received at Brookhaven Hospital, and the surgical skills of Dr. Leon and Dr. Sathi, Philip has all the time he needs to decide.

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