N.J. Gov. Corzine Still Needs Ventilator

New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine at a news conference, April 9, 2007. AP

New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine still needs a ventilator to help him breathe, nearly a week since he was severely injured in a car crash on the Garden State Parkway on April 12.

He was visited at Cooper University Hospital by at least two of his children Thursday morning.

Dr. Steven Ross, head of trauma and emergency surgical services, says the pain from Corzine's multiple fractures of ribs and the fracture in his sternum causes excruciating pain and prevents him from breathing as effectively as he should, reports Michelle Durham of CBS Radio station KYW-AM.

"None of those things per se are bad enough to keep him from coming off the ventilator, but the pain from them ... is what is really holding him back at this point," said Ross Wednesday. "A lot of pain and that's what keeps him from breathing effectively."

So doctors inserted two catheters in the chest wall that fan out over his injured ribs, delivering healthy doses of local anesthetic, reports Durham. They hope that will help relieve enough pain to reduce the governor's need for morphine.

As of Wednesday, doctors said, he was getting eight breaths a minute from the machine and taking in an additional six per minute on his own. An average healthy person take about 16 breaths a minute. The ventilator will remain in place until he does not need it at all, doctors said.

Ross would not predict how long it might be before Corzine could breathe completely on his own, but said he hoped it would be a matter of days, not weeks.

Corzine was riding in the front passenger seat of a Chevrolet Suburban on the Garden State Parkway last week when the vehicle was clipped by another driver swerving to avoid a third vehicle and veered into a guard rail.

The governor's SUV, with a state trooper behind the wheel, was traveling 91 mph just before the crash and Corzine was not wearing a seat belt, officials have said.

Corzine was the only one seriously injured. He broke his left thigh bone in two places — requiring three surgeries so far — as well as 11 ribs, his breastbone and collarbone. He also fractured a vertebra and has a laceration on his head.

He didn't suffer brain damage or injuries to internal organs and is not paralyzed, his doctors said. His brain function is as good as anyone's could be while on a ventilator, they added.

When Corzine first arrived at the hospital, doctors said he was able to talk about the accident. But since the breathing tube was inserted into his throat, he has not been able to speak. However, he can communicate by nodding his head.

Besides the three surgeries on his broken leg, doctors have inserted tubes into his chest to drain fluid from his lungs.

The next expected recovery milestone will come when the governor is breathing well enough on his own to have the breathing tube removed. Until then, he will not be able to speak and will not be able to have his condition upgraded from critical but stable.
  • Amy Clark

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