If there’s one big life lesson everyone must learn, it is this: You just never know.
Councilman Tim Hubbard nearly died last week.
The 58-year-old Aquebogue resident had just buried one of his older brothers, Dennis after a brief battle with bladder cancer. He was on his backyard deck, contemplating life, half-sitting, half-leaning on the railing. It’s a favorite spot.
As he moved from the railing, his knee buckled and Hubbard went down — hard — “flat like a pancake,” he said.
“When you fall like that, you lie there thinking, ‘Wow, I must have broke something,’ and you’re hesitant to move,” he said. After a few minutes, he got to his feet and, having ascertained that his moving parts were all still working, he went inside.
He recalls telling his wife Lisa that he’d taken a nasty fall outside. His back hurt — his tailbone in particular. He took some ibuprofen and turned in.
The next day — Sunday, Jan. 13 — his tailbone hurt. He wasn’t sure how the fall injured it, but he kept the pain at bay with ibuprofen and watched football.
Monday, Hubbard went to work at town hall. He had meetings scheduled throughout the day. He was still sore but otherwise thought he felt OK. He’d been seated all day and when he stood up, he felt really ill — a woozy, fuzzy-headed feeling. And his stomach felt really full — “like I’d had a Thanksgiving meal” — despite not having eaten anything all day.
He got in his car and decided to go to the emergency room. As he neared the hospital, he decided he felt better, so he drove home. By the time he got there, however, he felt really sick again and headed back to the hospital.
And it’s a good thing he did.
When he fell on his deck that Saturday night, Hubbard ruptured his spleen. He was bleeding internally. In fact, he lost so much blood, his blood pressure dropped to dangerously low levels. When he got to the ER, it was 56/38.
ER staff called in a trauma team. “I was lying there thinking, ‘Uh-oh. This isn’t good,’” he said.
After a CT-scan that disclosed the bleeding organ — and a couple more “crashes” — Hubbard was rushed into emergency surgery.
Three-and-a-half hours later, he emerged from the OR. Hubbard spent the next four days in the intensive care unit, on a ventilator.
“He had three liters of blood in his abdomen,” his wife Lisa said. “He lost more than half his blood.” He got six units of blood in the OR and two on Tuesday, she said.
He couldn’t take any of the sedation medication, she said. “He kept bottoming out on the vent.”
The drops in blood pressure causes swelling in his right eye and damaged the optic nerve, Hubbard said. The result: near total vision loss in his right eye. He’ll be seeing a neurological ophthalmologist, he said. But the doctors say it’s unlikely his vision will be restored. Luckily, his left eye is fine.
The whole thing was “very scary,” said Hubbard, a retired Riverhead cop with 32 years on the police force.
“It is what it is. I’m very lucky,” he said. “I could have had a stroke — or worse.”
Lisa hasn’t left his bedside, he said, and has been a great comfort to him.
“Everyone here’s been great,” he said. “It’s nice being in your local hospital because you know so many people who work here. It’s just a nice feeling. And the care has been excellent.”
Hubbard was scheduled to be discharged this afternoon.
He said he plans to work from home and participate in town board work sessions by conference call for a few weeks. Rules prevent him from voting by phone, and Hubbard said he hopes there won’t be any controversial agenda items in the next couple weeks that require him to cast the deciding vote.
“I want people to know I’ll be fine and I’ll be back,” Hubbard said.