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Walking, Talking, Medical Miracle Reunites With Memorial Hospital Staff Who Saved His Life

HOLLYWOOD (CBSMiami) – A heartwarming reunion Thursday for a Parkland man involved in a deadly multi-car pileup involving an 18-wheeler.

Doctors are dumbfounded by 22-year-old Zach Corliss' recovery. But the man himself isn't, and he gives all the praise to the medical staff at Memorial Hospital.

Corliss, a walking, talking, medical miracle, strode from his parent's car at Memorial Hospital to hugs and handshakes from his medical staff that saved his life.

"Zach had a traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury in the same setting, and we don't know what to expect quite often when that occurs," said Dr. Scott Raffa, a Memorial Hospital neuro and spinal surgeon.

Five months ago, the 22-year-old collided with a semi at 65 mph on Florida's Gulf Coast.

The aftermath of the crash. (Source: Memorial Healthcare System)

He was taken to a hospital in Fort Myers and then to Memorial in Hollywood.

Corliss had bone crushing fractures and worse. He was kept in medically induced coma. In those five months, he had nine surgeries – so far.

Memorial Health System Chief Of Trauma Surgeries Dr. Andrew Rosenthal said of Corliss, "He came to the right kind of trauma center where all the pieces were in place to help him achieve this recovery.  Zach required extensive surgery both on the west coast of Florida and here at Memorial. He got through an amazing ICU course. And there was a period of time when we wondered if Zach would recovery at all".

Corliss' doctors say it usually takes a full year, or longer, to achieve this kind of recovery. The 22-year-old did it in five months.

"I'm a very competitive person," Corliss said. "I was always trying to beat what the doctors were telling I wouldn't be able to do, per se."

Zach Corliss on a ventilator. (Source: Memorial Healthcare System)

That determination was born from another tragedy.

"My father passed away in March. He was a role model who I really looked up to and strived for," Corliss said.

The recovery was painful for Corliss, arduous, and at times he felt defeated.

Corliss remembered, "When I wasn't able to get out of my bed, I wanted to get out of my bed. When I wasn't able to walk, even if I fell, I wanted to walk."

But he persevered – a will that got him off to rehab.

It was a journey that became his job. Every day he was in rehab from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Once he got home he kept the same rigorous regimen to maintain his level of progress.

A few short months later, Corliss was back on his bike, pedaling through the neighborhood.

Despite the remarkable progress he's made, which he says he owes to the staff at Memorial Hospital, he knows his road to recovery is just now in the beginning stages.

Corliss has a new goal that lends itself to evidence of his determination and will learned from dad.

"I just looked them in the face and said I'm going to run a marathon," he said.

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