It was such a small stumble. Oscar Constandse and his buddies were at the tail end of a bachelor party in Cabo San Lucas. The hour was way, way too late, and Oscar tripped on his way to the cantina bathroom.
That’s all he remembers about the accident. His friends told him later that he was fully conscious and able to speak, but they were worried enough to rush him to the hospital. Even though he got the all-clear to go home, one of his friends urged him to return to the hospital to be seen by a neurosurgeon. Oscar is grateful every day for his friend’s advice – and for the fact that he followed it.
It turns out his brain was bleeding so badly, surgeons had to cut open his skull to relieve the pressure. A week later, in a medically induced coma, Oscar was transported by medivac to Orange County, where he was rushed to Hoag.
It was such a small stumble. But it could have cost him his life.
“One of the reoccurring things that I think about in all this is that, as tough as we become by living our lives, life itself is a frail miracle. Reading the medical notes from the doctors and surgeons, the fall was described as starting from a standing position. That was just enough distance for me to hit the wrong part of my head,” Oscar said. “The other thing that I think about, that I’m overwhelmed by, is just the gratitude that I have for people in my life.”
That gratitude extends to Oscar’s friends, who helped keep him in Mexico an extra week, to his brother, Daniel, to his wife, Leanna, and to their two sons. And, Oscar said, he is grateful to Hoag.
“The medical knowledge and downright caring and sympathy from all the people at Hoag associated with all stages of my recovery is such a blessing,” he said. “Their enthusiasm and passion. They are living out their hearts for society.”
Due to the extent of his injuries, Oscar was treated by Hoag’s Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute, Jeffrey M. Carlton Heart & Vascular Institute (for life-threatening infections he received while in the hospital in Mexico) and the Hoag Spine Center. It was not until the last part of his recovery, when he became a patient at the Fudge Family Acute Rehabilitation Center, that Oscar can remember clear details about his care. A world-class facility offering intensive, inpatient rehabilitation and comprehensive care, the center helps patients recover from serious injuries and medical conditions and maximize their independence and quality of life.
Throughout his recovery journey, Leanna navigated through the ups and downs and recounted to Oscar that Hoag’s commitment to excellence and the medical teams’ compassion guided her through difficult days.
“My wife didn’t know if I was going to be able to speak, to walk. The medical doctors and professionals walked Leanna through the possibilities to prepare her,” he said. “Their care was instrumental in bringing hope for my recovery. Their professionalism was unbelievable. Their passion for helping people really came out.”
Oscar is a science and philosophy teacher at Newport Harbor High School, the same school he and Leanna attended more than two decades ago. Nearly three months after his injury, Oscar was able to return to work, and he said the dedication he witnessed from the staff at Hoag inspired him to come back and finish out the school year for his students.
“The reason I wanted to go back to work, is that it feels like it is something important that I can do for my community, my society,” he said. “The people at Hoag, and their passion for helping their fellow humans inspired me. Their patience and encouragement really highlighted to me the importance of being there for the adolescents that are walking through my classrooms.”
Oscar describes his recovery as “98% there.” Though he still experiences muscle soreness and finds himself searching for the right words at times, he said the physical and occupational therapists at the Fudge Family Acute Rehabilitation Center continue to work with him to get him back to where he was before the accident.
Maybe even better than he was before the accident. As a man who spends his days at the intersection of science and philosophy, it is not difficult for Oscar to draw important, life-affirming conclusions from his experience.
“I think what elevates the beauty of this miraculous existence are the people in my life. Not only my buddies, my brother, and my wife, who is a huge gift, but all the medical professionals at Hoag,” he said. “My taking this deviation before coming back to join society has given me a renewed appreciation of things.”
It was such a small stumble. But it has infused Oscar with enormous gratitude for the friends, family and physicians who have been there to break his fall.
To learn more about the Fudge Family Acute Rehabilitation Center at Hoag, click here.