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PICS Survivors Find Connection Through ICU Hero

Days before Brenda Novak,co-founder of Connecticut Amputee Network, was to participate in a July 2018 event for Achilles International, a friend leant her Gratitude in Motion: A True Story of Hope, Determination, and the Everyday Heroes Around Us. The book was authored by Colleen Alexander, who had won the Society of Critical Care Medicine’s (SCCM) ICU Hero Award and who was also scheduled to appear at the Achilles International event. Ms. Novak wanted to learn more about her. As Ms. Novak skimmed through the book, she saw a familiar name: Dr. Lewis Kaplan.

Colleen Alexander was riding her bicycle when she was hit by a truck, and it was Lewis J. Kaplan, MD, FCCM, SCCM’s treasurer, who performed her surgery. He first saw her in 2011 and continues to see her today.

The reason the name was familiar to Ms. Novak was because Dr. Kaplan helped save her life after her lower leg and knee were crushed while doing volunteer work in Mali. He treated her from 2008 to 2010. “We both appreciate the care he provided,” Ms. Novak said. “He saved our lives, and we are grateful.”

Both women spent long stays in the intensive care unit (ICU). Both had post-intensive care syndrome afterward. They shared a unique bond and, because of that, Ms. Novak wanted to connect. “I have met only a few people who have experienced long-term stays in ICU,” Novak said. “There are certain experiences that are difficult to describe. It’s like a private club with high cost of admission.”

The two met at an Achilles International event, where they took a picture together. From there, they made sure Dr. Kaplan received a copy. The message was simple: Thank you.

“Having the two of them find each other and celebrate their shared triumphs serves as an example to all that out of tragedy can come humility, compassion, and love,” Dr. Kaplan said. “That each of them embraces the care that I provided—as part of a much larger team—as a foundational piece of their recovery is humbling, uplifting, and provides the cornerstone of why I, like my colleagues, live to serve and care for the critically ill and injured.”