Two years later, Michael Hubbard returns home to Riverhead

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Michael Hubbard and mom, Nancy Reyer, in his room at Peconic Bay Medical Center’s skilled nursing facility Thursday afternoon.

Friends, family and former teachers lined up outside Peconic Bay Medical Center Thursday afternoon, waving signs to welcome home a local teen who’d been gone far too long.

Michael Hubbard is back in Riverhead.

Michael, who will turn 17 in August, was moved from Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Westchester County to PBMC Health’s Skilled Nursing Facility today, where he will be cared for until the opening of Brendan House, a group care facility planned for Riverhead.

“I’m excited, I really am,” said his mother, Nancy Reyer, who has been caring for Michael at the upstate facility. “It’s the next step in the journey. We’ll just take it from here. I am glad Michael can now see his friends and all the people who couldn’t travel upstate to see him before.”

Michael suffered third-degree burns over 40 percent of his body after being burned by a gel candle that exploded in his backyard May 28, 2011. He went into cardiac arrest a week later, causing traumatic brain injury, as well as kidney failure and lung distress. Michael was originally taken to Stony Brook University Medical Center, but was moved to Blythedale that September.

Blythedale, a short-term care facility, could no longer keep Michael for the extended care he needs, his mother said. It left her looking for other facilities.

She was originally considering moving Michael to a hospital in Albany, before receiving a call from officials at PBMC Health.

“We knew the story of Michael, so we really wanted to do everything we could to get him here,” said Ronald McManus, senior vice president and administrator of the skilled nursing facility. “We knew how important it was for the family to get him home to Riverhead.”

The hospital sent two nurses, Marta Troyan and Wendy Dolan, upstate to visit Michael at Blythedale, to see if PBMC Health could accommodate him.

“They came back and they said, ‘Yes, we can.’ We will be able to take good care of him,” Mr. McManus said.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Ms. Reyer said of moving back to Riverhead. “My mom will be 92 in July, and now she’ll be able to see her boy.” Michael is her youngest grandson, she said.

Ms. Reyer credited Denise Civiletti of Riverhead LOCAL for reaching out to PBMC, and bringing Michael home.

“Denise has done more for this family than I can say,” Ms. Reyer said. “This experience has shown me that family doesn’t have to be blood. She has become my sister. She will always be family.”

While covering the homecoming Thursday, Ms. Civiletti downplayed her role in getting Michael to PBMC.

“I really didn’t do anything,” Ms. Civiletti said. “I just picked up the phone and told them about it.”

PBMC President and CEO Andrew Mitchell said finding a place for Michael to receive the care he needs is in line with the goals of the hospital.

“That has been the 60-plus year mission of the hospital,” he said.“The fact that he has been away from the community two years makes it that much more special that he’s coming home.”

Michael recently underwent a skin grafting procedure and he had the stitches removed from his head and chin at Stony Brook University Medical Center Thursday morning.

Just about two weeks ago, he spoke the word “Mom,” Ms. Reyer said. She said she thinks being in Riverhead will help with Michael’s transition into Brendan House.

“Now he can see familiar faces and hear familiar voices,” she said.

[email protected]