Firefighter Released From Hospital After Strike-Related Accident
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After five months in the hospital and 15 surgeries, the firefighter who was struck by a bus during December's transit strike finally headed home from the hospital Wednesday.
Matthew Long, 39, was hit by a private bus while biking to work on December 22nd. Long suffered several broken bones and lost nearly all the blood in his body.
Doctors say it was his extremely good physical condition that kept him alive.
On his release, Long told the press he's not ruling out a triathalon in Hawaii sometime in the future. But doctors say he'll still have to complete two years of physical therapy.
"I really wish this was the end and I know it's not. Dr. Lords let me know it's a two-year journey," said Long. "But with all your help, with all my friends and family’s help and the support I got from all over New York, to having a fundraiser for me in Atlanta and California — firefighters that I know — I wouldn't be able to do it without you. So, I thank everyone. And thanks for being with me on my long journey. Thanks to everyone at the hospital. Thank you."
Long left the hospital in a convertible, but he'll be back three times a week for outpatient treatment.
His family is suing the Transport Workers Union, the bus company, the driver, and Bear Stearns, which had hired the bus to shuttle its workers during the strike.
Long's father, Michael, is the head of the state's Conservative Party. He will discuss his son's accident and recovery on NY1's "Inside City Hall" tonight at 7 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
NY1’s Rebecca Spitz filed this report.
Determined, but thin and still in a wheelchair, Firefighter Matthew Long greeted supporters who lined the hallway at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
But before starting the news conference celebrating his release after five months, Long stood and walked to the podium to a standing ovation.
“I can only say I wish this was the end, and I know it's not," he told reporters.
Long's ordeal began December 22nd as the veteran firefighter was heading to work. Ordinarily, he'd have driven to his job at the Fire Academy on Randall's Island, but it was in the middle of the transit strike and Long was on a bike, trying to avoid the traffic.
He was crushed and nearly killed by a charter bus hired to shuttle workers to and from Bear Stearns.
While Long says he doesn't blame anyone personally, he maintains the accident is a direct result of an illegal action, and would say this to Transport Workers Union Local 100 President Roger Toussaint: "It's against the law for civil servants to strike. If the Fire Department went on strike and it was his neighbor's house or his house or someone's house and we stood idly by watching that burn while you had to wait for firefighters from [New] Jersey or somewhere else to come and put it out, how would you feel Mr. Toussaint? That's my question for you."
Long's injuries were critical and severe, and there was some question as to whether he would survive. But an avid tri-athlete, Long says his physical condition kept him alive.
He's had 15 surgeries for a broken pelvis, broken shoulder and broken legs, and will still need more.
But the people who love him are crying tears of relief.
“I’ve applauded Matt many times — graduations, birthdays, all kinds of events,” said Long’s mother Eileen Long. “This is the best day I've ever had to applaud for him."
“With each step I walk I feel lucky,” said her son.
This day is a milestone, but it's not the end of the road. Long will continue to do outpatient rehab at the hospital, and doctors say he will continue to recover for at least two years.
- Rebecca Spitz
There's more to Rebecca's story. During his news conference, Matt Long singled her out from among the reporters covering his release and said he thinks of her as he looks ahead to his rehabilitation.
"If there's any inspiration in the room right now, years ago I met Rebecca Spitz and she had an accident and she was critically injured, and I see her right in front of me right now and it's making me feel really good about myself," he said.
As many know, Rebecca was severely injured covering a story for NY1 almost three years ago. After four months in the hospital and more than a year and a half in rehab, she was able to come back to work to cover stories like Matt Long's release.