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Councilman Tim Hubbard in good spirits after surgery

01/24/2019 6:00 AM |

“In the flash of a second, everything can change,” said Riverhead Councilman Tim Hubbard. “You can go from hunky-dory to borderline ‘not going to be here anymore.’ ”

Mr. Hubbard had that experience Jan. 12, when he fell over a railing on a deck in his yard and ruptured his spleen.

The 58-year-old retired police officer, who was elected to the Town Board in 2015, suffered extensive internal bleeding and may have permanently lost the vision in his right eye. 

He had no idea how extensive his injuries were when the accident first happened. 

“I was sitting on the railing of the deck, at the entry to the stairs and I went to put my legs out to get down,” he said. “My leg buckled and I went over the railing and down to the ground.”

He estimates the railing was three feet high and the deck was four feet off the ground, so it was about a seven-foot fall.

His tailbone hurt, but he didn’t feel any other substantial pain, he said.

“I went inside and took a couple of Motrin. The next day was Sunday, so I laid low, watching football.” 

By Monday, Jan. 14, he said, his tailbone still hurt but he went into Town Hall anyway for a department head meeting and for interviews with candidates for the water district superintendent job.

“By the end of the last interview, I wasn’t feeling right,” he said. “When I stood up and walked by the supervisor’s office, I felt like I was going to collapse.”

He drove home, which is not far from Town Hall, and felt like he was going to collapse again when he got out of the car. 

He drove toward Peconic Bay Medical Center, then went home instead, and then he finally went back to the hospital. 

“I called my wife and said, ‘Meet me at the emergency room,’ ” he said.

It was there that doctors determined his spleen had ruptured and his blood pressure was “dropping really bad.”

The doctors first did an EKG to rule out cardiac problems and then took him for a CAT scan, which showed the ruptured spleen, he said.

That same day, Mr. Hubbard underwent three-and-a-half hours of surgery to remove the spleen, which he said was “shattered all over the place,” and stop the bleeding.

He was released from the hospital Jan. 21. The account of his injury was first reported by RiverheadLocal. 

“If I had waited a little longer, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Mr. Hubbard said. 

The drop in blood pressure affected the optic nerve in his right eye, leaving him with almost no vision on that side. He plans to see a specialist, but was told the loss of sight is probably not reversible. 

He is expected to make a full recovery in every other area, he said. 

Mr. Hubbard had nothing but praise for the doctors and nurses at PBMC.

“The crew up there, and the trauma team, got together in seconds and got the operation room ready … it was amazing. The staff, the ICU nurses, everybody up there … I’m so happy we have Peconic Bay Medical Center here. We are really lucky with what we have.”

For now, he said, “I’m going to stay home for a while.”

Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said it was fortunate that Mr. Hubbard reached the hospital when he did and that they were able to treat him.

“It’s pretty scary how quickly things can turn,” she said.

Mr. Hubbard said he will attend the non-voting Town Board work sessions via teleconference. 

As for the regular voting meetings, Mr. Hubbard said he’ll probably skip the next one but hopes to have his wife, Lisa, drop him off at the one after that.

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