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Friday, January 6, 2023

Saving a Good Samaritan

Posted By: Advancing Care

From left to right: Charmaine Mikaya, RN, Nurse Manager, Trauma ICU (seated); Katie Jacobson, RN, Nurse, Trauma ICU (standing); Stephanie Kennedy, RN, Nurse Director, Critical Care Services (seated)

Saving a Good Samaritan 

When Mike McCutchan stopped to help a motorist, whose car was involved in an accident on the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, his life suddenly changed in ways he’d have never imagined.

It was October 20, 2021. Mike was on assignment for his job in the Special Operations Unit of the New York State Attorney General’s office when he pulled over to help a driver who was halted in a center lane, just before 5 a.m.

The 62-year-old Good Samaritan didn’t hesitate to help. In fact, Mike's lifetime of community service began back when he joined the Mineola Volunteer Fire Department as a teenager. 

He later worked for the New York City Police Department, eventually becoming a member of the elite NYPD Emergency Service Unit. After retirement, he returned to assist at Ground Zero following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

In that predawn hour last October, Mike sprang into action to help the injured driver on the bridge.

“The man was slumped over the steering wheel, but conscious, so I got him out and to the side of the road,” Mike recalls. “I also had some emergency cones in my vehicle and started to put them on the road.” 

Then, without warning, a commercial box truck slammed into Mike.

The power of the impact catapulted him underneath the other man’s car, leaving Mike unconscious, with devastating injuries.

Fortunately, someone had reported the initial accident, and police were on the way. “If they hadn’t arrived so fast, I would’ve bled out and died,” he recalls.

Speedy Response

After New York State Police troopers and an EMS crew arrived on the scene, Mike was extricated from under the vehicle and rushed by ambulance to Westchester Medical Center.

Kartik Prabhakaran, MD, Chief of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery at Westchester Medical Center, recalls: “I was the trauma surgeon on call, and we were alerted of an incoming patient with severe injuries. We were notified about 15 minutes prior to his arrival, so we were ready for him.”

Westchester Medical Center and WMCHealth’s Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, are the only American College of Surgeons accredited Level I trauma care centers in the Hudson Valley.

Mike was rushed to the emergency department, given blood and put on a ventilator as other vital procedures were performed. CT (Computed Tomography) scans soon confirmed his dire condition.

“He had a traumatic brain injury, severe facial and skull fractures, multiple rib fractures, a scapula fracture, and severe leg injury,” says Dr. Prabhakaran. In the operating room, it was determined that to save Mike’s life, his left leg required amputation at the knee.

While Mike was receiving emergency care, police alerted Mike’s wife, Andrea, who rushed from their home in Westbury, N.Y., with their family members; the McCutchans have two grown sons and a daughter. 

After his first surgery, Mike was transferred to Westchester Medical Center’s Trauma Intensive Care Unit for more treatment. “An interdisciplinary team consisting of neurosurgeons, plastic surgeons, orthopedic surgeons and our skilled nursing staff all helped Mr. McCutchan get through this,” says Dr. Prabhakaran.

During the five months Mike spent in the hospital, he says his family and friends supplied unwavering support. “And the doctors and staff at Westchester Medical Center were phenomenal.”

On March 16, 2022, Mike received his prosthetic leg and was discharged shortly thereafter from a physical rehabilitation center near his Long Island home.

Upon his release from Westchester Medical Center a crowd of hospital staff, plus Mike’s family, friends, and coworkers, lined the halls and applauded as he exited the hospital.  

Making Progress

Mike admits his recovery has not always been easy. “At the beginning, I had a tough time accepting that my life has changed forever,” he says. “Before, I was always the one helping. But now I had to learn to accept help.”

Mike has made substantial progress and continues with physical therapy five days a week. He is also paying it forward by encouraging other patients whenever he can and says he’s especially inspired by others’ stories.

“One man I exercise with is a double amputee who is only 30 years old,” Mike explains. “He reminds me that every step we take is an adventure. I’m glad whenever I can be helpful, because out of my bad situation, a lot of good came.”

In July 2022, Mike returned to Westchester Medical Center to share his story at the hospital’s annual trauma symposium for emergency medical technicians. “He spoke powerfully about what he went through and how his experience has been meaningful, in terms of redefining his life,” says Dr. Prabhakaran. 

“For us to be part of the care, recovery and life of someone like Mike is something we cherish. It reinforces why we do what we do, and it helps give us the drive and motivation to keep doing it.”

More on Michael McCutchan

Man nearly killed while helping strangers thanks team that saved his life | ABC 7

Good Samaritan injured in horrific accident reunites with lifesaving medical team | News12