One Friday night, Johnny Gonzalez got off work early and went out with a few friends. The 27-year-old welder remembers driving his motorcycle toward home that evening, feeling agitated. “I was driving too fast, nipped another car and crashed my motorcycle in the middle of the street,” Gonzalez said. He woke up two weeks later in Broward Health Medical Center, confused, but lucky to be alive.
A Lifesaving Decision
“A friend of a friend recognized me lying in the road and called my wife, Katie,” Gonzalez said. “They were going to take me to another hospital, but Katie told them to take me to Broward Health.”
Aaron Brooking, D.O
He thinks that decision saved his life. At Broward Health Medical Center, neurosurgeon Aaron Brooking, D.O., was called in to care for Gonzalez.
“They told me later I was brain-dead, and the trauma team didn’t think I was going to make it,” Gonzalez said. “But when Dr. Brooking saw me, he told them it wasn’t over yet.”
Dr. Brooking remembers Gonzalez well. “He had a devastating brain injury and was in bad shape, but he was a young man and had a flicker of movement in his arm,” he said. “That gave me hope I might be able to save him.”
With no time to lose, Dr. Brooking wheeled Gonzalez into the operating room and shaved his head while his team prepared the room for surgery.“I knew we only had a short window of time before he became brain-dead, so I worked quickly to do a bilateral craniotomy with brain decompression and remove blood clots.”
This emergency surgery involves removing a part of the bone from the skull to relieve the pressure from swelling in the brain. The bone is replaced when the pressure is alleviated.
Saving Time Saves Lives
“When it comes to this brain injury, you have to be fast,” Dr. Brooking said. “Saving time means saving the brain, and ultimately saving people’s lives.” This was certainly the case with Gonzalez, who woke up within two days of the lifesaving surgery and has made a remarkable recovery. Three months after his traumatic injury, Dr. Brooking cleared Gonzalez to go back to work.
“It’s amazing how well Johnny has recovered,” said Dr. Brooking. “I think it speaks to how well our team works together to provide good neurosurgical care and good trauma care.”
“Dr. Brooking is my hero,” Gonzalez said. “He saved my life — and he and the team took really good care of me.”
Providing a Full Range of Neurology Care
With the only Level 1 Trauma Center in northern Broward County, the neurology team at Broward Health Medical Center is well equipped to handle even the most serious brain injuries, such as Gonzalez’s. But the team also provides a full range of treatment options for brain injuries and other neurological conditions, such as strokes and brain tumors.
“We have all the latest innovations and tools to handle the most complex cases,” Dr. Brooking said. “But our focus as a practice is to do things in a way that’s as minimally invasive as possible, whether it involves surgery or not. It always comes down to what’s best for the patient, and I always treat every single patient as I would my own family member.”
Home to Complex Care
Broward Health offers high-quality care for the treatment of stroke, brain or spine injuries and other neurological disorders. Learn more at BrowardHealth.org/Neurosurgery.
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