Alberto Arriaga, a carpenter, was working nights on a large construction project when he and a co-worker, who was driving a scissor lift, stopped for a break. When Alberto bent to remove his knee pads, the lift driver accidently moved forward trapping Alberto between the door and lift. The driver panicked and moved forward even more, crushing Alberto’s torso.
An ambulance took Alberto to a local hospital where emergency staff recognized he needed trauma care and transferred him to Ben Taub Hospital.
Once he arrived, trauma specialists immediately knew he was losing blood and prepped him for surgery. Surgeons repaired a pulmonary artery and explored his abdominal area for other injuries. He had nine spinal fractures, though there was no nerve damage, and 17 rib fractures. Painful and shallow breathing, due to the rib injuries, led to pneumonia. Ten days later, he had a second surgery to deal with infection. He was released after 20 days with a wound vac, which he used for two months.
In spite of his injuries, Alberto amazed his doctors by walking after the first week. He wanted to heal as quickly as possible. His wife, Veronica, was traveling between two medical center hospitals. Their daughter, Zephora, had been born at 26 weeks and was in a nearby neonatal intensive care unit. She was there for nine months. Her doctors called her “feisty” and “a fighter.” Their son, 2-year-old Jesus Alberto, was ready for dad to come home.
“Veronica was my angel while I was in the hospital,” Alberto says. “I thought of our babies. I wanted to get out so we could be a family.”
Veronica credits the staff at Ben Taub for his recovery. “They did an excellent job taking care of him. Less qualified and less experienced doctors may not have found it [the damaged artery] so quickly. Something like this opens your eyes that life can change so fast. It isn’t guaranteed from one moment to the next.”
Today, Alberto is back at work on modified duty, and his family is committed to spending quality time together.
Alberto says, “There’s a reason God created doctors. If it had not been for them, and my faith, I would not have made it.” Veronica adds, “We have strong faith, and we’re grateful for the doctors and their wisdom.”