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April 2, 2014

Official Statements from HHC, Harlem Hospital Center, and Father of East Harlem Explosion Victim

Statement of HHC President Ram Raju, M.D.

I just visited the bedside of a brave 16 year-old patient, Oscar Hernandez, who survived the tragic blast in East Harlem. I also met his devoted father Mr. Cecilio Hernandez, who has been by his son’s side every day and night. Everyone who has met Mr. Hernandez has been incredibly impressed with his fortitude, grace and faith in this extraordinary difficult time. What this family has endured is unimaginable. They are still grieving. But the healing has begun. As a surgeon, I had the opportunity to discuss in some detail Oscar’s case with Dr. Arthur Cooper, who is leading the care team. I am pleased to report that thanks to the exceptional skill of the Harlem Hospital Trauma and Burn Unit teams, Oscar's prognosis is extremely positive and he is well on his way to recovery.

Oscar and his family have received much more than exceptional medical treatment here at Harlem Hospital. They have experienced the unique human touch of the healthcare professionals in New York City’s public healthcare system who so strongly believe in our mission and provide patient-centered, culturally-competent and compassionate care every day. Soon after Oscar’s arrival at Harlem Hospital, the staff and volunteers started a collection, purchased clothing for the family, and donated a video game system for Oscar. I am deeply grateful to the entire team at Harlem Hospital Center and I am humbled to know what a difference we can make in the lives of New Yorkers like Oscar and his family.

Statement of Arthur Cooper, M.D., Director of Trauma & Pediatric Surgical Services, Harlem Hospital Center

Since March 12, 2014, when Oscar Hernandez first arrived at Harlem Hospital Center following the building explosion and collapse in East Harlem, he has continued to make steady progress, and has very nearly recovered. We are deeply grateful to the police officers who found Oscar amidst the rubble on that tragic day, recognized his dire straits, extricated him from the wreckage, and immediately transported him to our trauma center. Without the timely actions of these dedicated and heroic officers, Oscar's story could have had a very different ending.

Upon arrival to the Harlem Hospital Center Emergency Department, Oscar was immediately brought into the Trauma area and assessed. He was treated for bilateral lower extremity fractures, lacerations to the liver and spleen, and multiple spinal contusions and fractures. Our trauma team consisting of Orthopedics, Pediatric Surgery and Plastic Surgery provided care to Oscar. Interventional Radiology also played a key role in his care through minimally invasive interventions. The intense burns, internal injuries, and bone fractures he sustained, as previously reported in the press, are all well on their way toward complete healing. He continues to receive excellent care from the nursing staff of our burn unit for the preexisting skin condition that complicated the care of his burn wounds. He is now fully awake and alert, with all his vital functions intact.

Statement of Cecilio Hernandez, Father

First and foremost I give honor to God who sustains me. There are not enough words that can express my gratitude for all who have supported me and my family throughout this great tragedy. I’m eternally grateful to all the New York City first responders, the firefighters, paramedics and police force. I must also thank the Mexican General Consul who has supported me throughout all of this.

Most importantly, I would like to express my gratitude to Harlem Hospital Center. Here, where I have slept almost every night, we have been treated like family. The medical care that my son Oscar received has been incomparable. I would like to thank the specialists in the Trauma Unit and the Burn Unit, and especially Dr. Arthur Cooper and every nurse, every therapist, every pharmacist, those who clean the room, those who bring the food, as well as those from the administration who always ensure that our stay is a comfortable one and have treated us with much kindness and compassion.

Lastly, I would like to thank all New Yorkers and others from afar who have prayed for us and provided a gesture of kindness to me and my family. I know in my heart that with the Lord’s guidance and the continued support from all of you, we will overcome this tragedy and my children will have a bright and healthy future. Each day Oscar progresses and he is in good spirits. Thank you, New York. May God bless you all.


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