What is it like to rely on a stranger to save your child’s life? That’s an unimaginable fate that was faced by the Bolger family.
On October 10, 2015, 19-year-old Matthew Bolger of Jersey City was out with a friend when he fell victim to a gunshot wound during an attempted robbery. On that day, his parents Connie and John Bolger met the woman who would ultimately save their son’s life.
Matthew had been taken to the ER at Jersey City Medical Center with a gunshot to the back of his head. With the bullet lodged in the front of his head, Dr. Allison Rathmann of Advanced Neurosurgery Associates was called upon to operate.
John tells the story of he and his wife: “When we went in, we were both in shock. But Dr. Rathmann was so calm, so sure of herself. ‘Don’t worry about it; I got it. I’m going to take good care of him.’ That calmed us down a bit. When we went in, we weren’t sure he was going to make it. She was so reassuring; we stopped even considering he might pass away. She made us feel he was going to be okay.”
Dr. Rathmann operated that day for four hours, and Matthew remained in the hospital for 18 days. In November, he complained of headaches and was vomiting. Consequently, on December 31, Dr. Rathmann performed a second surgery to place a ventriculoperitoneal shunt in his brain to relieve increased intracranial pressure and to treat delayed hydrocephalus. A third surgery, a cranioplasty, was later performed to re-attach the part of his skull that had been previously removed. (On that day alone, Dr. Rathmann saw Matthew and his family through five seizures.) She performed a fourth surgery the day after the cranioplasty to evacuate an epidural hematoma (blood outside brain).
With Dr. Rathmann’s skill, Matthew has beaten the odds. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, head trauma from a gunshot wound results in an estimated 35 percent of deaths due to TBI (traumatic brain injury). Gunshot wound head trauma is fatal approximately 90 percent of the time. In fact, many victims die before arriving at the hospital. For victims who survive the initial trauma, 50 percent die in the emergency room.
Since February 3, 2016, Matthew has been an outpatient five days a week at Kessler Rehabilitation Center receiving speech, occupational and physical therapy. As he awaits a plastic surgery procedure on his head, Dr. Rathmann remains the Bolger’s doctor as well as moral support. The entire family, including Matthew’s 23-year-old sister, has a relationship with Dr. Rathmann.
Devoted to Dr. Rathmann, Connie regales, “Dr. Rathmann saved our son’s life. She and I have a great relationship. I can text her even at 11 p.m., and she responds right away. You couldn’t ask for a better doctor or a better person. She’s been by our side from day one.”
John is also a Dr. Rathmann fan. He further finds comfort with the entire Advanced Neurosurgery Associates team. As he explains, “Matt stills go to Dr. Rathmann for checkups and CT scans or whenever we need her. Her staff is great. I can call them, make appointments, do everything very easily. They are very nice and very helpful.”
Prior to this life-altering event, Matthew had been a student from Hudson County Community College. He was an athletic young man who played baseball on several teams. While on the road to recovery, Matthew and the Bolger family are so grateful they created a plaque, which they presented to Dr. Rathmann.
Concludes Connie of the doctor who saw them through the worst; “We would do anything for Dr. Rathmann.”