Injuries help to define a life

By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript 

WILLIAMSTOWN — People say there are defining moments in their lives that change them forever. David Ranzer believes he had his in October.
"I'm a changed person. I'm going to take time to smell the roses. I'm going to get off the fast-track. I'm going to retire and then when I'm fully recovered, about three months from now I'm definitely going to come back to Sweet Brook and volunteer," Ranzer said.
Ranzer, 61, a rehabilitation patient at Sweet Brook Transitional Care and Living Center, was released Friday afternoon after 12 weeks of bed rest, which were accompanied by grueling hours of intense physical and occupational therapy. The therapy helped the Merrill-Lynch vice president regain the ability to walk and use his left wrist — two things an October accident could have stripped from him forever.
"It was Oct. 25. I was traveling to my home in Williamstown from the Merrill-Lynch office in Pittsfield. It was the first snowfall of the season," Ranzer said.
On the outskirts of South Williamstown, Ranzer saw a bus approaching in the southbound lane, but determined it was OK to proceed. After passing the bus, which then stopped to let off one of Dr. Jonathan Krant's children, Ranzer's car left the road and hit a tree.
"It was about 60 yards after the school bus that I began to skid. I think I lost control, I'm not sure. My last memory is of saying an explicative. I don't remember hitting a tree. I don't remember the air bag deploying," he said.
Ranzer was later told Krant, a fellow communicant of Congregation Beth Israel, had come to his aid moments after the accident. Krant woke the unconscious Ranzer and asked him simple questions.
"I'm told he asked me my phone number, which I knew, but I didn't know my wife's cell phone number. I should have known Joanne's number because I had the phone for two years," he said.
Ranzer was taken to Berkshire Medical Center's trauma center, where it was discovered he had not only a broken vertebrae in his back, but several other critical injuries as well.
"I learned later on that I had head trauma, broken ribs, a collapsed lung, as well as a compromised one, and that I had broken and crushed my left wrist," he said. Doctors put him into a morphine-induced coma during his initial days at the hospital.
"I was under the morphine for at least five to six days. But I had at least five full-length, full color, dialogue dreams," he said.
In one of the dreams, Ranzer believed the hospital was in the middle of a merger that was going to be bad for the hospital staff. He was attempting to organize the lower-level workers, which caused him to be chased by someone.
"I never determined who it was, but I determined that in order to be safe, I had to pull out all these tubes that were in my body. I really did that," he said. "The nurses tell me there's a study that shows that patients who rip out tubes during a medicine-induced coma have an incredible determination to live."
Unfortunately for Ranzer, his real-life episode caused spinal surgery to be canceled for a second time. The operation, which is not without risks, has a recovery time of a week.
"The second day I was there the doctors tried to operate. They had begun the procedure to fuse my spine, when I became unstable," he said. "The second time, surgery was canceled because of an infection caused by a bacterial spray from when I pulled out the tubes."
Ranzer was rescheduled for surgery, but the night before his operation Dr. Sheldon Brotman, director of the trauma center, noticed something unusual.
"He's the old Navy guy who speaks in a deep voice, and he asked me if my thighs had always been so large and close together. I said no. He brought in a sonogram machine and found my thighs and legs to be full of blood clots," Ranzer said.
Treatment options
The next day a team of doctors began discussing his treatment options with him, which included traditional treatments of bed rest and therapy — a Computed Axial Tomography scan revealed that not only was his broken vertebrae in the correct place, it would respond to such therapy.
"One of the doctors said, 'There are forces here operating against us.' I had to respect that," he said. "They were always extremely confident that I would make a 100 percent recovery."
So, nearly immobile, Ranzer entered Sweet Brook with the idea that he would recover. He never thought the experience would change his life.
"The staff here is unbelievable," Ranzer said. "They truly made themselves available. Whenever they had a chance they stopped by to say hello. I'm a Wall Street guy; I would have never met these wonderful people if I hadn't been put in the hospital."
Ranzer believes his accident, and the experiences afterwards were meant for a reason.
"I've been given a second chance. When do you get a second chance? There are 18-year-olds that die in car crashes. I raise my right hand and say 18, and then I raise my left hand and say 61. Why was I given a second chance?" he said.
Perhaps, he said, it was to give him a chance to slow down and enjoy those around him.
"I was blown away to see my two adult daughters, Karen and Cori, engage doctors and ask questions. I'm grateful for a second chance," Ranzer said.
He also said that he has developed deep, lasting relationships with therapists Jane Edge and Barbara Allen.
"Barbara is the one who gave me my legs back, and Jane is the one who gave me the use of my left hand," he said. "I love them dearly, and they will always be part of my life."
Ranzer, now in a wheelchair and able to walk with the assistance of a walker, returned home to his wife, Joanne, and their dogs Friday afternoon. He will continue to undergo both physical and occupational therapy sessions. He said a full recovery is expected in another three months.

Jane Edge, director of rehabilitation at the Sweet Brook care center in Williamstown, gives David Ranzer, who was seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident in October, physical therapy for his left hand. His wrist was crushed in the crash. Ranzer said his rehabilitation has changed his life. Photo by Gillian Jones/North Adams Transcript    Saturday, February 11
David Ranzer

Thanks is not Enough

Hello to my CBI family and friends!  I am thrilled to be home and in my familiar comfortable surroundings.  It has been a long haul but the worst is over with real light at the end of the tunnel.  It is difficult for me to put into words (can you believe that?!) just how much Joanne and my daughters have contributed to my recovery.  I can’t imagine it would have been possible without them.  Joanne has been tested every bit as much as I have, and perhaps even more in many ways because of the many hats she wears and home responsibilities she has to shoulder daily.

I am indebted beyond the words “thank you” for the magnificent support from the CBI community in so many different ways.  You all, along with Joanne and the girls, have made me whole.  I will try to incorporate what this experience has taught me into how I lead my life every day.  My love and thanks go out to all of you. Best as always, David.

Community Health Focus: David Ranzer's "Miracle"
By Susan Bush - February, 03 2006

Sweet Brook Director of Rehabilitative Services Jane Edge and David Ranzer of Williamstown.[see related story "Sweet Brook Services" on Community News page]
Williamstown - In a matter of seconds on Oct. 25, David Ranzer's life was forever changed.

Ranzer, 61, was driving north on Route 7, heading toward his Sweet Brook Road home. There had been snow that day, but the road home seemed safe, Ranzer recalled.

He remembers passing by a southbound school bus, and then, chaos.

"I went into a skid," Ranzer said during an interview from his room at the Sweet Brook Transitional Care and Living Center. "I seem to remember as I skidded off the road that I may have driven into the skid."

His vehicle struck and wrapped around a tree, and a critically injured Ranzer was plunged into unconsciousness, he said.

The school bus Ranzer saw had stopped at the home of Dr. Jonathan Krant to discharge a passenger, and Krant either saw or heard the crash, Ranzer said. Krant ran to the scene and delivered aid to Ranzer, Ranzer said.

"Apparently, Jon was right there," Ranzer said. "I was unconscious and I don't remember the crash, I don't remember the airbag deploying at all. [Krant] recognized me and he said 'David, do you know your phone number,' and I guess I did, and then he asked if I knew Joanne's [Ranzer's wife] cell phone number and I didn't, which, considering I'd had the phone for two years before giving it to her, seemed odd."

Life Saved At BMC Trauma Center

Ranzer was taken to the Berkshire Medical Center and admitted to the BMC Trauma Center. His injuries were life-threatening and included head trauma, broken ribs, collapsed lung, and broken bones in his wrist. He sustained a spinal injury and was kept in a medically-induced coma for several days, Ranzer said.

Things initially appeared extremely bleak for Ranzer, a vice-president of the Merrill-Lynch company in Pittsfield, but on Feb. 1, a talkative, smiling, and clearly appreciative Ranzer appeared well on the road to recovery. Ranzer termed his dramatic progress a "miracle," and credits his recovery to medical care he received at BMC and physical and occupational therapy programs at Sweet Brook.

"In two months of therapy, nearly all my function has been restored," Ranzer said. "[Therapists, nurses, nursing assistants] are just so incredibly good, and I'm not talking about just doing their job. They bring so much education to it and I am in awe of the care, the skill, and the dedication of this place."

Ranzer had equally high praise for his care at BMC. He acknowledged the efforts of BMC Trauma Center Medical Director Dr. Sheldon Brotman ["He's a lot of fun to be around," Ranzer said,] and neurosurgeon Dr.Todd Lasner.

"I think the care I got from the doctors, the nurses, and the aides was wonderful," Ranzer said. "The quality [at BMC] was at a wonderful level."


While at BMC, Ranzer endured several complications; while under the influence of morphine and in the medically-induced coma, he experienced hallucinations that made him pull out various medical tubes connected to his body, Ranzer said.

The tube-tearing caused a "bacterial spray" that led to an infection, which was successfully treated but caused a cancellation of spinal surgery. The surgery was re-scheduled and Ranzer was about to undergo the operation when he was found to be suffering from a significant number of blood clots. Surgery was again cancelled.

For surgery to occur, Ranzer had to be free of all blood clots.

Ultimately, he opted against the surgery. He was bedridden and nearly immobile when he arrived at Sweet Brook for rehabilitation services, he said.

A Long Road And "Wonderful People"

Sweet Brook rehabilitative services staff members Laura McGrath and Martha Leja are with Ranzer.
He spent his hours in a specially-designed bed that shifts patients from their right to left sides and onto their backs to avoid bedsores,pneumonia, and other problems associated with long-term immobility.

"I came here and here I have this incredible bed," Ranzer said. "And there are these wonderful people, Paul Jangrow [director of Social Services], Cindy Dix [transitional care manager], all these nurses and these wonderful CNAs [certified nursing assistants]. They did so much; Cindy Dix made it her business to learn how to operate this complicated bed. And it isn't anybody's job to stop by [his room] just to say 'hi,' but they do it."

Ranzer's spinal injury had to be completely healed before he could begin the therapies that would hopefully set him on his feet again. Ranzer received much therapy while he remained in bed, he said, but was very eager to begin the more rigorous work that would restore his ability to walk and move about. That therapy began in January, and Ranzer has made much progress. Physical and occupational therapy occurs six days a week, he said.

Jane Edge is the director of rehabilitative services.


"When David came to us, it was for 12 weeks bed rest," she said. "We had to do a lot of strengthening while he was on bed rest. We had to be certain that he was ready to sit on the edge of the bed and for standing. Therapy was twice a day for about three to four hours a day. When we had the go-ahead from his physician [to introduce mobility and standing] we warned David about some of the possible issues, but the only thing that happened [when Ranzer was first moved to an upright sitting position] was his blood pressure went up."

Nausea and vomiting are among the consequences that may occur when a person concludes an extended period of bed rest, Edge said.

Ranzer now uses a wheelchair, which he powered with his feet during the interview, and has had almost all function restored to his injured left wrist. He is able to transfer from bed to chair with supervision and is also using a walker. Ranzer has worked with parallel bars and therapy that involves navigating a set of stairs is underway, Edge said.

"We had him in a standing table to increase endurance, and using parallel bars to practice steps," Edge said. "I believe he will have a full recovery."

Ranzer may be headed home sometime this month and will likely receive in-home therapy. Ranzer will make a visit to his home before any discharge so that his ability to navigate within the home environment can be evaluated, Edge said. Ranzer said that he plans to remain home for about two weeks and then take a six-week trip to Florida.

"My Eyes Have Been Opened Wide"

The long recovery, the extended period of bed rest, the care he's received and his positive prognosis have impacted Ranzer in ways beyond the physical, he said. His personal experiences and encounters have made him "a changed man," he said, and Ranzer names names.

"The certified nurses aides are all really, really good," he said. "My eyes have been opened wide, I've learned so much about these people. I've gathered so much respect for health care workers in general, and these dedicated, caring compassionate aides are overworked and underpaid. Let's be honest, these are people I wouldn't have met otherwise. They come in here, they work all these hours, and they took care of me when I couldn't do anything for myself, when I was helpless and dependent and it was so hard for me. This recovery, everything, has been the hardest thing I've ever done in my life."

Ranzer offered his praise and appreciation to all the CNAs who cared for him and specific praise for CNAs Jennifer Sprague, Crystal Ramos, Debbie Sherman, Missy Sumner, Brittany Maxwell, Eric Phelps and Kevin Dunlop.

Elise Martin is another dedicated professional, Ranzer said.

"I'm still using a bedpan," Ranzer said. "After an accident, believe me, I have no modesty left. I've asked these guys, 'how do you do this,' and they say 'it's part of the job and we just do it.' I have come to admire and respect them."

The Sweet Brook nursing staff is dedicated and caring, Ranzer said, and he acknowledged several nurses who spent time with him.

Nurses Deb Haig, Cathy Lamoreaux, and Christine Collins are "unbelievable," said Ranzer.

"Christine sounds like [television actress] Roseanne and she is the most caring 'drill sergeant' I've ever known," Ranzer said with a wide, dazzling smile. "These nurses make it a habit to see if I need anything or want anything. They are great, great, great."

Physical and occupational therapists and assistants were also cited by Ranzer as integral forces to his recovery. Barbara Allen acted as Ranzer's primary physical therapist. Edge was Ranzer's primary occupational therapist. Ranzer also worked with Pam Moore, Laura McGrath, Ann Kwiecinski, rehab aid Martha Leja and physical therapy assistant Jean Doyle.

"They are the best, the best there is," Ranzer said.

Sweet Brook physical therapy assistant Jean Doyle joined David Ranzer for a photo.

Ranzer is so impressed with the Sweet Brook staff, patient care, and other services that he plans to become a volunteer at the facility, he said.

Family, Friends, and God

His self-described "miracle recovery" would not have occurred without support from his wife Joanne and daughters Karen and Corey, Ranzer said. After his accident, Karen returned from England and Corey arrived from New York City, Ranzer said. The daughters became a "team" with Joanne Ranzer.

"I watched them function in a way I'd never seen before and it blew me away," Ranzer said.

He is a member of Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams, and his congregation community has offered tremendous support, he said. Business clients have gone out of their way to assist and cheer him, Ranzer said.

"I have had clients drive four hours from New York City to come and sit with me for an hour-and-a-half," said a clearly appreciative Ranzer. "And Merrill-Lynch has been very supportive and generous."

And there are no miracles without God, Ranzer said.

"I am grateful to God for giving me a second chance," he said. "I hope to prove worthy of that; life and death is so random. There are 18-year-olds who die in crashes while a 61-year-old survives. That's how unpredictable it can be and if you get the second chance, you better take it."
The following is from
Sweet Brook physical therapy assistant Jean Doyle joined David Ranzer for a photo.
Sweet Brook rehabilitative services staff members Laura McGrath and Martha Leja are with Ranzer.
e-mail from David - 3/19/06
Dear Friends,

Joanne and I send you greetings from down South!
I am doing really well and threw away my cane 8 days ago and am plugging along walking and climbing stairs, swimming and doing rehab three times a week; working hard to get my stamina back and I am making some headway there but it's kinda tough. The weather has been surreal, magnificent, sunny, in the high 70's to low 80's every day since we arrived.   We have the little Berger boy with us and for the most part he is great except he barks at every noise.
    For the CBI folks, we know that Purim was great with a wonderful play (AGAIN!) with great participation.  We missed not being there for that and everything else as well but especially all the great folks who were so instrumental in helping me recover over such a long time.  I AM SO VERY GRATEFUL TO HAVING HAD THAT EXPERIENCE OF LOVE AND FAMILY AND COMMUNITY.  CBI lived up to every expectation that Joanne and I ever envisioned for it to be and dared to dream possible as a synagogue serving its community. Little did we know that we would be the recipients of that love and giving.  So many extraordinary memories sustained me and continue to do so. How can I ever say thank you enough?!  There are so many silver linings that have effected me so positively.  Enough for now. We send our love and hopefully some warmth as well!  As always, love from Joanne and David.