By Kevin Deutsch
Just four-and-a-half months ago, Zach Corliss seemed on the brink of death.
The 22-year-old Parkland man was driving home from Florida’s Gulf Coast on Aug. 28 when he got in a deadly, high-speed, multi-car crash, his vehicle colliding with an 18-wheel truck that smashed into multiple vehicles going 65 miles per hour. The wreck, for which Corliss was not at fault, killed at least one person, authorities said.
Corliss’ injuries were so severe—numerous internal injuries, broken bones, spinal cord damage, and a traumatic brain injury—it seemed unlikely he would survive, let alone walk again.
Yet on Thursday, Corliss emerged from his parents’ car at Hollywood Memorial Regional Hospital and reunited with the doctors and nurses who treated him, mending his broken body back to health.
He looked strong and healthy as he strode toward the trauma team to shake their hands, hug them, and show his appreciation.
“You’re a miracle,” Memorial Regional Hospital Director of Nursing Tracy Meltzer said to Corliss as they hugged.
“Thank you,” Corliss told her and the other caregivers.
After nine surgeries and a grueling rehabilitation process, Corliss said he was anxious to reconnect with those who cared for him during his darkest days. According to the hospital, their meeting brought tears of joy to both the patient and the medical professionals, who rarely reunite with those whose lives they save.
“From what I remember, I really did have such great care, and one of the things I do remember is everyone really did treat me like family,” Corliss said. “I had a great support system really trying to push me to the next level. So it was no longer a matter of them helping me; it was now how badly I wanted it.”
On hand to meet with Corliss were other members of his treatment team, including Dr. Andrew Rosenthal, Memorial Healthcare System chief of trauma services; Dr. Scott Raffa, neurosurgeon, and spine surgeon; and Rhonda Espada, Memorial Regional Hospital nurse manager.
Some of the medical team had last seen Corliss strapped to a gurney on the way to a rehabilitation facility. They were emotional as they recounted the days and months after the crash—and how far Corliss had come.
“I was handed a pretty rough card…with the spinal injury, the brain injury, I was able to really overcome and beat what was at hand and start walking again, cognitively being here,” said Corliss. “And it was all because I had such a great team around me.”
“The next step for me is getting back to the life I wanted to live and who I wanted to be as a man.”
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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