Change in routine may have saved life

“Don’t take anything for granted,” Joseph Perricone said.

Relaxing at home with his wife, Leslie Perricone, the busi­ness owner and Board Member of Alpine Union School District says that everything in life can change in a minute. He should know, after surviving a five-car accident in late November that has left him with 10 screws, four solid plates, and several stabilizing rods in his spine.

The accident happened near the Greenfield exit on west­bound I-8. He says everything was just a little different that morning: he was driving Leslie’s small Ford Fiesta instead of his large truck and he had left his phone in his pocket instead of tossing it onto the seat next to him as usual.

He says the car crumpled like tinfoil at the moment of impact and everything went dark. When he opened his eyes and saw the front of the car was destroyed, he thought to get away from any possible gaso­line fires and easily opened the car door, noticing that for all the crumpled metal the door easily opened as usual. He tried to slide out of the car but realized he couldn’t stand up.

The last thing he remembers about those initial moments on the freeway is lying on the side of the road, thinking he wanted to hear Leslie’s voice, and trying to call her from the phone in his pocket.

He says paramedics kept him talking on the way to Sharp Memorial hospital, reassuring him that he was going to come through.

“I thank God that the fire­fighters and paramedics that picked me up off the freeway looked at me and said ‘we’re not going to let you die’. I felt so alone, just wanting to hear Les­lie,” Joseph said.

After four days at the hospi­tal, the pain medications were lifted enough for him to regain coherence and he started asking “Don’t take anything for granted,” Joseph Perricone said.

Relaxing at home with his wife, Leslie Perricone, the busi­ness owner and Board Member of Alpine Union School District says that everything in life can change in a minute. He should know, after surviving a five-car accident in late November that has left him with 10 screws, four solid plates, and several stabilizing rods in his spine.

The accident happened near the Greenfield exit on west­bound I-8. He says everything was just a little different that morning: he was driving Leslie’s small Ford Fiesta instead of his large truck and he had left his phone in his pocket instead of tossing it onto the seat next to him as usual.

He says the car crumpled like tinfoil at the moment of impact and everything went dark. When he opened his eyes and saw the front of the car was destroyed, he thought to get away from any possible gaso­line fires and easily opened the car door, noticing that for all the crumpled metal the door easily opened as usual. He tried to slide out of the car but realized he couldn’t stand up.

The last thing he remembers about those initial moments on the freeway is lying on the side of the road, thinking he wanted to hear Leslie’s voice, and trying to call her from the phone in his pocket.

He says paramedics kept him talking on the way to Sharp Memorial hospital, reassuring him that he was going to come through.

“I thank God that the fire­fighters and paramedics that picked me up off the freeway looked at me and said ‘we’re not going to let you die’. I felt so alone, just wanting to hear Les­lie,” Joseph said.

After four days at the hospi­tal, the pain medications were lifted enough for him to regain coherence and he started asking questions.

It turns out that the little Ford likely saved his life, according to emergency responders who said that the newer wraparound airbags in the commuter car are more effective than the older system in his truck. He still has not heard anything about the four other vehicles or how their drivers fared.

With those first crucial weeks behind them, the Perricone family is now trying to figure out the future and have tenta­tively accepted help from the community. Joseph is currently immobilized in a white, hard plastic closed-cell foam case

 

that was molded to his torso; it is a newer form of a body cast that allows for small, controlled movements. He is just beginning to walk again.

Leslie is slated to return to her administrative position at Joan MacQueen Middle school on Jan. 6 but admits that while it is a small step toward normalcy, their family’s future is uncer­tain as the medical bills multi­ply and Joseph will not be back at work anytime soon. When he does return, he says he will likely stick with the design and management sides of the busi­ness and hire out for the heavy lifting.

A GoFundMe campaign that was established by their daugh­ter Taryn Ducote has yielded slightly less than $5,000.

“The future is still out there for us to figure out but we’re go­ing to be okay. Thanksgiving and Christmas this year were the best because we were all to­gether,” Leslie said.

Joseph said that they have lived in Alpine for 21 years and through this accident realized all over again how much they appreciate the community.

“Accepting help has been in­credibly difficult but I appreci­ate all the well-wishes and sup­port. Superintendent Newman came to visit me three different times in the hospital. He was so compassionate, so thoughtful. It made me realize that attending a board meeting is a goal I have to hit,” Joseph said.

Leslie said that she’s come to see each little goal that her hus­band hits as a milestone on the road to physical and emotional recovery. She also says she is more diligent now when driving, always on the lookout and aware of other people

“This whole experience has been so scary.  Joe’s alive, he’s not paralyzed and that’s all that really matters. It wasn’t his time to go,” Leslie said.

Change in routine may have saved life

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