Dr. James Vosswinkel was having dinner with his family on a quiet Saturday night when a fateful call came, setting in place a series of events that saved the life of a Suffolk County police officer.
Officer Christopher Racioppo had been stabbed in the leg after stopping a driver on suspicion of Driving While Impaired after the driver had caused a car crash. Chris’s femoral artery had been severed, and he was bleeding severely. Time was critical.
Two good Samaritans stopped and confronted the assailant while his fellow officers at the scene worked to control the bleeding. Guillermo Sandoval, a retired Marine who lives near the accident scene, came to the police officers’ aid and helped to tie a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. Then the officers made a vitally important decision – not to wait for an ambulance, but instead to transport Chris immediately via police car to the closest hospital.
Every step in the initial chain of events was “beyond important for his recovery,” Dr. Vosswinkel said, calling what was done at the scene to stem the bleeding “miraculous.” When he arrived at Long Island Community Hospital, Chris received an immediate transfusion of blood products.
“When I first met Chris at Long Island Community Hospital, I was truly concerned he wasn’t going to make it,” he said. “Chris essentially had bled out his entire blood volume. Chris was in the most severe form of shock, and he literally had minutes before his cells shut down. And despite everything that modern medicine can do, unfortunately when one crosses that threshold, we can’t save them.”
Then Chris was transferred to Stony Brook University Hospital, where the trauma and vascular teams were already in place to perform emergency surgery, thanks to the early alert from Dr. Vosswinkel, who serves as Chief of the Division of Trauma, Emergency Surgery and Surgical Critical Care at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University.
“When I received the call from Dr. Vosswinkel – as the situation was clearly described, this was a critical life-threatening and limb-threatening condition – we notified our vascular team,” said Apostolos Tassiopoulos, MD, Interim Chair of the Department of Surgery and Chief of the Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at Renaissance School of Medicine. “Thankfully, we have a state-of-the-art Hybrid Operating Room facility for situations like that.”
The vascular team was able to control the bleeding and repair the artery by placing a stent, Dr. Tassiopoulos said. Then the focus shifted to saving his leg and its functionality.
“I want to give my praises to Dr. Vosswinkel for two things,” said Dr. Tassiopoulos. “The immediate management of Officer Racioppo and the non-delay in his transfer to a facility that could handle his injuries are the only reasons that we have the outcome that we have today.”
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