Celebrating the day he almost died, and the team who saved him

Dr. Geis, his wife, Donna, and two of their kids in Grand Cayman. This vacation was not long after he left the rehab facility and was still using a cane.

It was early in the morning on Nov. 22, 2014. A day George Geis, MD, almost didn’t survive. As an emergency medicine physician at Advocate Good Samaritan Immediate Care Center in Lemont, IL, he was driving in to work like every other day.

But this day, another driver ran a red light and t-boned his vehicle at 60 miles an hour. It took him a few seconds to realize what had just happened; it took emergency responders over an hour to remove his broken body from the car.

Dr. Geis remembers them asking him where he wanted to be taken. Without hesitation, he said, “Good Sam.”

His many injuries included eight broken ribs, a flail chest, cardiac contusion, torn left kidney, and multiple pelvic fractures. He also had a fracture in his neck, a collapsed lung and a tension pneumothorax, which is a life-threatening condition when the air outside the lung increases with each breath. He doesn’t remember much about those moments, but he has a flash memory of being under the fluorescent lights in the ER and seeing the faces of his colleagues Dipul Patadia, MD, and Bruce Donnenberg, MD, leaning over him.

“I remember Dipul saying, ‘You have a collapsed lung, I have to put a needle in your chest,’” Dr. Geis recalled. He inserted the needle in the upper front of Dr. Geis’ chest and dramatically, just like it’s described in medical textbooks, Dr. Geis heard the air rapidly escaping his chest with each breath—one of the first times the team at Good Sam saved his life.

While Dr. Geis was in the ICU, his respiratory status was deteriorating, and the Good Sam team realized something more needed to be done. They performed an “open reduction and internal fixation” of most of his broken ribs. This is a surgery to realign the broken ribs and then fix them in position with individual metal plates.

“My brother was in the surgical waiting area, and he said the doctor who did the surgery told him he had to do the installation of the plates manually instead of using a drill. The poor guy came out of the ER and was soaked in sweat from the operation. God bless him,” Dr. Geis shared.

He was in the Intensive Care Unit for 10 days and then had two months of inpatient rehab. He was incredibly impressed with the calm, reassuring demeanor of everyone he encountered at Good Sam during his stay.

“It really impressed me how important all the staff were to my experience,” Dr. Geis said. “A pleasant smile from the housekeeping team could make such a difference to my day. The personal touch is not lost at Good Sam.”

Dr. Geis could have died that day six years ago. But instead of feeling sadness about his pain and suffering, he now calls Nov. 22 his “Alive Day.” Every year he celebrates his recovery with a special dinner with his family and honors the team at Good Sam who made it possible by making a financial gift to the hospital Trauma and ED funds.

“I get choked up just thinking about their unending kindness. ‘Thank you’ sounds totally inadequate for them saving my life. But, because of their skill and compassion, I’ve been ‘playing with the house’s money’ for six years now,” Dr. Geis shared.

If you’re grateful for care you received at Advocate Aurora Health and would like to give back, learn more here for Wisconsin, and here for Illinois.