Healthy You - Every Day

A September to Remember for Hellertown Motorcyclist

LVH–Muhlenberg trauma team gets John Biondo back home

The car turned in front of John Biondo’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle so suddenly he wasn’t even able to form a complete thought before being jettisoned from his bike and tumbling through the air.

It was the middle of the afternoon last Sept. 10 and Biondo, 59, an industrial maintenance technician, was headed home from work. As he approached Brodhead Road on Route 191 in Bethlehem Township, Northampton County, he remembers keeping an eye on traffic as usual.

Out of nowhere, a car turned in front of him, causing a collision Biondo couldn’t possibly avoid. “I remember thinking ‘what the…?’ and then hitting the other vehicle and tumbling through the air for what seemed like forever,” says Biondo, of Hellertown. “And then I remember the pain. I never felt so much pain.”

Finding out by phone app

At the time of the crash, Biondo’s wife, Cathy, was working in the backyard at the couple’s Hellertown home. The Life360 family communication app on her cellphone alerted her to the possibility John was in an accident or hit a pothole. The app uses advanced GPS and motion sensors to help detect a crash.

“Knowing John, I let it go and set the phone down and continued working in the yard,” Cathy says. “He would have pulled over to help anyone, so I first thought maybe he pulled over on his motorcycle to help someone that may have been in an accident or hit a pothole themselves.”

The alert sounded again, and Cathy headed toward the location shown on the app, but as she got closer, she noticed John’s location changed. Now, her husband was on another road, headed toward Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Muhlenberg. Little did she know, his mode of transportation was now an ambulance.

Cathy, who works at LVH–Muhlenberg as guest services representative, instinctively went to the LVH–Muhlenberg emergency room to ask if her husband was there. She didn’t have to wait for an answer because she heard John shouting that he didn’t want his wife to hear him screaming out in pain.

Surgery and rehabilitation

Biondo recalls being prone on the roadway at the crash scene, finding it sometimes difficult to breathe, depending on his position. The crash damaged part of his chest wall, causing multiple rib fractures and puncturing his lung. He also had a fractured ankle and collarbone.

Trauma surgeon Joseph Stirparo, MD, says John had a flail chest from multiple rib fractures. Dr. Stirparo operated to place plates in John’s chest to bring the ribs back into proper alignment. 

After surgery, John was in the intensive care unit (ICU) for eight days and then went to inpatient rehabilitation. “I was intense in rehab because I wanted to get back home,” he recalls.

His days in ICU were hard, he says. “Each night I thought was my last. The nights were the worst. A few times they had to give me an injection for the pain.”

“As a Level II Trauma Center, we routinely deal with serious, complex trauma cases. Seeing patients like John go home and back to their lives is very satisfying and it’s why we do what we do.” - Joseph Stirparo, MD

Biondo says he wasn’t used to anyone having to take care of him. “Everyone was really good,” he says. “Dr. Stirparo was very thorough and answered any questions I had.”

Dr. Stirparo says no two trauma cases are alike, but each requires the same commitment and skill from an entire team of clinicians. “As a Level II Trauma Center, we routinely deal with serious, complex trauma cases. Seeing patients like John go home and back to their lives is very satisfying and it’s why we do what we do.”

The next chapter

John was released home Sept. 29 and went back to work on Dec. 5. The crash, though, remains with him physically and psychologically. Though he’s back on the road on his repaired motorcycle, he says he rides now with a heightened sense of awareness, looking out more than ever for potential problems. “There is a lot of anxiety until I get out of town,” he says.

He was wearing a helmet the day of the crash, something he didn’t regularly do. “Something just made me put it on,” he recalls. “I wear them all the time now.”

Physically, he says, his ankle will probably never feel the same. Sometimes, his chest muscles bother him. Aches and pains are common and unwelcome companions. But he says he feels lucky to be alive. “After all that, it’s my ankle that’s holding me back the most,” he says.

He adds he’s not letting the crash define his future. “I’m not going to let it dictate what I do for the rest of my life,” he says.

Cathy says the crash changed a lot. “The John I spoke with that morning is not the John of today,” she says. “That alert on my phone changed my life forever. I’m glad I didn’t go straight to the scene of the accident after the first alert, because I would have seen him lying in the road. To this day, I hope I never hear another alert on my phone.”

Trauma Care

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