Following Thomas Rickard’s episode of passing out while driving, he was diagnosed with a condition called vasovagal syncope.
This condition occurs when certain triggers cause a sudden drop in heart rate and blood pressure, leading to a temporary interruption of blood flow to the brain. This then causes fainting or loss of consciousness.
Unfortunately, in Thomas’ case, this episode resulted in a car accident that left him with severe injuries.
“A lot of the accident is a blur for me,” Thomas says. “I vaguely remember the third week after the accident, but the first two weeks are completely gone.”
The extent of his injuries was staggering: a shattered femur requiring major reconstruction, dual lung collapse accompanied by seven broken ribs and open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) on his right calcaneus. Thomas spent a total of one month in the hospital, with three weeks being at Mercy Health -St. Vincent Medical Center and one week at Mercy Health – St. Charles Inpatient Rehabilitation and Therapy.
Overall, Thomas’ recovery was long and demanding. Even though he is a hardworking farmer with a strong work ethic, Thomas was on an emotional rollercoaster after learning about his extensive injuries.
“It was a lot to take in, but Stephanie, my fiancée, had to endure the most,” he admits. “With such extensive injuries, we just knew it would have a lifelong impact and a long road to recovery.”
Despite the overwhelming news, Thomas knew he had to remain positive and motivated for the sake of his family. Drawing strength from his former EMS background, Thomas understood the importance of recovery and mobility. He made every effort to keep his legs moving, even removing the legs from his wheelchair to maintain activity.
“I pushed myself as much as possible,” he says, emphasizing the significance of physical therapy in his healing process.
Our health care team at St. Charles Rehab recognized the importance of Thomas’ farming work and encouraged his progress, which exceeded everyone’s expectations. His determination paid off, as he returned to work part-time at the end of June, ahead of his goal to be back in July.
Throughout his recovery, Thomas received care from Seth Phillips, DO, one of our orthopedic physicians, who made a lasting impression on Thomas. He describes Dr. Phillips as “perfect and upfront about everything.” He also appreciates Dr. Phillips’ honesty as well as how personable he was.
“I wish I could see Dr. Phillips for every one of my health issues,” Thomas adds. “He was so friendly, and I always looked forward to appointments.”
In fact, Thomas vividly remembers seeing Dr. Phillips in his boots and scrubs, which gave him a sense of comfort. Dr. Phillips also gave him a standing handshake at every appointment, a simple but powerful gesture that resonated with Thomas.
“It was genuine to see from a working side of life. Something so simple like a doctor wearing boots, yet so real.”
Dr. Phillips and his team played a crucial role in Thomas’s journey, starting with their remarkable work in surgery, giving him a chance to regain his mobility.
“Thomas was a pleasure to get to know and an absolute testament to what hard work and dedication can get you,” Dr. Phillips shares. “He had multiple very severe injuries and underwent several surgeries. Throughout his recovery, he displayed a remarkable level of determination to do what it took to get back to the quality of life he had prior to the trauma. He was very aware of the challenges he faced but met them with a level of grit and positivity that resulted in a great outcome. It was inspiring to see him make such a significant recovery through his physical therapy journey.”
As Thomas continues his recovery, he remains grateful for the support of his fiancée, Stephanie, their daughters and their extended family. All their support, as well as the assistance of the farming community, has made a significant difference during Thomas’ recovery.
Learn more about the sports and orthopedics services we provide at Mercy Health.