Charles E. Moore had just dropped his granddaughter off, and he was headed home. It was a short trip down Bishop, a curvy two-lane road in Powell, Tenn. He was driving carefully because the weather had been nasty, spitting rain and even a little sleet earlier in the day. No precipitation was coming down, but the road was still slick.
As he approached a nearby hill, a man, really no more than a boy to someone Moore’s age, skidded over the crest. The man was headed straight for him.
“It couldn’t have been more than 10 seconds from when I saw him to when we collided,” Moore said. “It looked like he was trying to turn, but his wheels just weren’t getting traction. I guess he just lost control of the car.”
On Tuesday, Jan. 18, around 4 p.m., Joseph Trantanella, a 22-year-old University of Tennessee student, crashed head on into another car. His seatbelt failed to catch and his head flew forward and slammed into the steering wheel and/or the gear shift.
Jennifer Trantanella finally got to see her brother’s car on Thursday, Jan. 23, five days after Joe’s accident. She had been trying to get his belongings out of the car for days, but she hadn’t been allowed to see the vehicle because the men who towed the car thought the crash involved a fatality.
From the condition of Joe’s ‘93 Nissan Sentra, it was hard for her to believe there wasn’t one. The car looked like it had been in a trash compactor. The hood was smashed up to the windshield. The interior and the dash were caked with dried blood.
Jennifer also spotted Moore’s 2001 Honda Civic. The front of the car was just as mangled, but the blood was conspicuously absent from his vehicle.
Moore, 71, suffered a broken bone in his left hand, including some bumps and bruises.
Joe Trantanella was lying in a hospital bed with a 6-by-6-inch piece of his skull missing. The doctors removed it because of severe brain swelling. His leg was shattered, his face was broken and he permanently lost hearing in his right ear.
But for Jennifer and her family, the 23rd was a day for hope.
Joe was alert and responsive. His ventilator had been removed. The bone cut from his skull was frozen, waiting to be replaced at a later date. His leg had a metal rod in it, and it will mend. His jaw and nose will take some work, but they will heal. Joe will live.
Tuesday was also a day to celebrate miracles.
The ambulance had arrived at the scene of the accident within 15 minutes of the 911 call. The artery above Joe’s right ear had been severed and he was bleeding profusely. The Lifestar helicopter couldn’t make the flight because of the weather.
The EMTs radioed the UT Medical Center, expecting a Dead On Arrival.
When the ambulance got to the hospital, Dr. Todd Abel, a neurosurgeon, was waiting with an operating room already prepped. He had been scheduled to operate on another patient, but when Joe was wheeled in, that patient was wheeled out.
Though they were able to get Joe into surgery quickly, the outlook was still bleak.
“The doctor let my parents see Joe right before they operated on him,” Jennifer said. “They wouldn’t let me go back. I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s because they thought he was going to die.”
After successful surgery on Joe’s head, Dr. Abel told Jennifer’s family that the type of injury Joe sustained usually causes death faster than any other type of injury.
Since that Tuesday, Joe has had setbacks. On Thursday, Jan. 25, one week after his accident, Joe began having minor seizures. He developed a fever. The nurses sedated him and incubated the ventilator again.
As of Sunday night, Joe was in a medically induced coma to ensure that he would rest.
Today he’s scheduled to undergo a tracheotomy, which will facilitate his breathing, and a gastrostomy, allowing him to be fed directly into the stomach.
His most recent brain scans showed no new damage but indicated some abnormalities due to swelling. Dr. Abel has no timetable for Joe’s recovery. He said that setbacks are to be expected with the extensive trauma to Joe’s body. He’ll be in critical care for several more weeks and out of the hospital in a few months. But it could be up to a year, and once out he’ll likely face a challenging rehabilitation.
Crash nearly fatal for student
Published: Tue Jan 30, 2007 | Modified: Tue Jan 30, 2007 05:46 p.m.