It’s been a difficult month for 15-year-old Audrina Crocitto, who survived the bus crash carrying members of the Farmingdale High School marching band on September 21st. But thanks to a specialized team of professionals and her determination to survive, Audrina was able to return to Cohen Children’s Medical Center recently — walking unassisted, with her loving family by her side.
The crash injured dozens of students and killed the school’s band director, Gina Pellettiere, 43, and retired teacher Beatrice Ferrari, 77. Audrina, who only remembers the initial impact of the bus careening off the road, was severely injured from the accident. “Audrina was airlifted to us almost immediately,” said Shaun Rodgers, MD, the pediatric neurosurgeon who cared for Audrina. “X-rays and MRIs revealed the need for immediate L1 to L3 spinal fusion surgery; in simplest terms, titanium screws and rods were inserted to hold her spine together.”
Following the three-hour surgery, Audrina remained in the hospital for a little over a week. Dr. Rodgers believes that she will enjoy a complete recovery and return to the great passions of her young life.
“Audrina serves as a member of the Farmingdale Fire Department’s junior brigade and will certainly be able to continue with her dream of becoming a full-time firefighter and EMT,” said Dr. Rodgers.
One highlight of the reunion was a surprise visit from flight paramedic Amen Alhadi and flight nurse Michael Bosi, the SkyHealth team who airlifted Audrina to Cohen Children’s.
After exchanging comforting hugs, Mr. Bosi said: “It’s not often we get to meet one of the patients we’ve brought to the hospital. We’re so happy that you’re doing well and hopeful that you will continue with your dream of becoming an EMT.”
“I’ve come a long way and there’s still a long way to go,” said Audrina, who said that she, along with others who were injured that night, continue to fight on in memory of their beloved teacher.
“We know Mrs. P. would want us to keep trying to get better,” Audrina said, often fighting back tears. “I’m here today because of my friends and my family. I will get through this. I’m strong now.”
After her mother handed green Daler high school T-shirts to the flight crew and Dr. Rodgers, Ms. Crocitto concluded by saying, “When you go through a trauma like this, your whole mindset changes. I realize now how many people love me. I’m so grateful to be here.”
—Submitted by Cohen Children’s Medical Center