A Nursing Student’s Reality, One Step Away From Being A Paraplegic After Car Accident

Erin Pyatt

Media Contact: Michelle Pipia-Stiles


Erin Pyatt, a 22-year-old nursing student from Islip, Long Island, was on her way home with friends one evening this past November when the car crashed into a pole.  She was in and out of consciousness and couldn’t move.

Ms. Pyatt was taken to Southside Hospital’s emergency department in Bay Shore, part of the North Shore-LIJ Health System. She was met by Salvatore Insinga, DO, the hospital’s chief of neurosurgery and Justin Thomas, MD, attending neurosurgeon.

“A computed tomography (CT) scan showed that Ms. Pyatt had a severe cervical fracture and required fusion surgery,” said Dr. Thomas.   “Given the severity of the fractured vertebrae of her spine, she was very close to being a paraplegic.”

Cervical spinal fusion is a surgery that joins certain bones in the neck.  In this case, Ms. Pyatt’s spine was stabilized with bedside traction prior to undergoing an extensive posterior cervical fusion.  Rods and screws were placed from her fourth cervical vertebrae through her first thoracic vertebrae in order to correct her deformity, stabilize her spinal column and preserve her motor function. 

After a successful six-hour surgery, Ms. Pyatt was miraculously up and walking the very same day and was discharged a week later. Ms. Pyatt was able to finish the semester at Suffolk Community College where she is studying for her associate’s degree in nursing and plans to graduate in May 2014.

 “I am so grateful that I am walking around and able to do things on my own,” Ms. Pyatt said of her treatment. “It has definitely changed my life! It is a reminder that in an instant, something could happen and change you forever.”

About Southside Hospital’s Cushing Neuroscience Institute

Southside Hospital’s Cushing Neuroscience Institute, which partnered with North Shore-LIJ’s Neurosciences program in 2007, includes all aspects of neurological and neurosurgical disease treatment, including a level III epilepsy center that is certified by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers, a New York State Designated Stroke Center which received the Gold Plus Award for outstanding stroke care from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and a state-of-the-art Spine Center.  For more information about Southside Hospital’s Cushing Neuroscience Institute, go to neurocni.com or call 631-591-7470.