Woman's World

After a devastatin­g car accident and multiple surgeries, “Miracle Boy” TJ is a happy, healthy teenager!

After a car accident shattered TJ Drahuschak’s body, doctors didn’t expect him to survive. Three times, the teen’s heart stopped—but three times, it started again . . .


Hopping into his buddy’s Ford Explorer, 16-year-old TJ Drahuschak gave his friend a high-five, buckled his seat belt and settled in for the ride to school.

They were laughing and talking football— both played for Lawrencevi­lle, New Jersey’s Notre Dame High School—when suddenly, TJ’S friend lost control, slamming into the curb and flipping into oncoming traffic, striking two cars.

By some miracle, the young driver managed to free himself and crawl out. But TJ lay unconsciou­s amid the wreckage.

It was only a matter of minutes until firefighte­rs arrived at the scene and freed TJ, loading him into an ambulance. But as they rushed him to a waiting trauma team at Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton, they knew it was touch-and-go.

At that moment, TJ’S parents, Michael and Colleen, received phone calls—the worst call any parent could ever receive.

“There’s been an accident . . .”

Praying for a miracle With

Colleen at an out-of-town work meeting four hours away, Michael arrived at the hospital first.

“Your son’s injuries are extensive and severe. He has multiple damaged organs, broken bones, internal bleeding and possible brain damage,” a doctor said grimly.

He was quiet for a moment. Then, swallowing hard, he added, “I’m so sorry. But odds are likely he won’t survive the day.”

Michael’s whole body went cold. All he could see, in the back of his mind, was TJ laughing, his blue eyes wide and bright as he told jokes; TJ in his white jersey, a blur of lightning darting across the field.

“Do everything you can,” he implored trauma surgeon Michael Kelly, M.D.

When Colleen rushed into the trauma center, her eyes shining with tears, Michael didn’t have the heart to tell her that they could lose their son. Instead, they just sat together, holding each other and praying.

Three times that first day, TJ’S heart stopped. Three times, doctors got it beating again, as the rest of the trauma team worked tirelessly to stop TJ’S internal bleeding, pumping 124 pints of blood into his broken body. And by some miracle, the young athlete clung to life throughout the night. The next morning, friends of the Florence, New Jersey, family flooded the hospital. TJ’S brothers, girlfriend, classmates, coaches and teachers arrived with balloons and flowers and get-well cards, praying for the boy they all loved. “If anybody can get through this, if anybody can fight . . . it’s TJ,” they encouraged. As the clock ticked and days blurred into nights, Colleen remained by TJ’S side, sleeping in a vinyl chair, leaving only to go home to shower. “Come back to us, baby!” she begged as machines breathed for TJ and he underwent surgery to repair his shattered pelvis, left arm, right leg and ankle. And every chance she got, Colleen headed to the hospital chapel. “Thank You, God, for the healing you have given TJ. Please, please, give him more . . .” Finally, 30 days after the accident, TJ awoke. “You were in a car accident,” everyone explained when he seemed confused, having no memory of that horrific day. But as much as experts had feared brain damage, when they handed TJ his ipad, he typed: “How crash?” By the time his broken jaw had healed and his feeding tube was removed, TJ had dropped from 145 pounds down to 99. But he could speak again. Soon, after gritting his teeth in rehab, he was walking again, too. And finally—after enduring more than two dozen surgeries—tj could finally go home!

Hero’s welcome

Ijust want life to get back to normal now,” TJ insisted to his parents as he settled back into his room, surrounded by sports trophies.

Still, he was nervous. What would everyone say? Would he be able to keep up in the hallways and in class like he used to?

Incredibly, TJ’S “Welcome Back” couldn’t have been sweeter. As he walked into school on crutches, he was met by a sea of smiling classmates— each one wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “TJ Tuff!”

“Seeing that made me realize that I wasn’t alone. And that I never had been alone in my fight!” TJ recalls.

Today, Tj—now 18 and a senior—has ditched the crutches, works part-time as a landscapin­g assistant and is looking forward to college, where he plans to go into the medical field so he can give back to others some of the TLC heaped upon him.

“The accident taught me how quickly life can change. I’ve learned to live every moment to the fullest and to cherish the people around me,” he says.

“Hey—it’s Miracle Boy!” the staff of the trauma center beam when he stops by to visit, a nickname that Dr. Kelly seconds.

“TJ was the sickest patient I’ve ever seen who survived,” he says.

For Colleen, thinking about TJ’S journey still brings tears. Yet she also believes that the worst experience of their lives has turned out to be the most inspiring.

“TJ’S back to being a normal teenager—he’s a ball of energy and never stops teasing me! For that, we owe immense thanks to his nurses, Dr. Kelly, and everyone who prayed for him,” she beams. “They taught us to always hold on to hope, and because of them, our boy is whole again—proof that miracles really do happen!”

—Marti Attoun

The most wonderful thing about miracles is that they sometimes happen.” G.K. CHESTERTON

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