At the time of the accident, doctors at Mercy gave the teen a 5.5 percent chance of survival. He was treated by orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Black of Mercy Clinic Orthopedics and neurosurgeon Dr. Sami Khoshyomn of Mercy Clinic Neurosurgery, who performed Nick’s surgeries. Now, almost a year later, Cuccia has made an almost full recovery.
Cuccia had three surgeries in total. The first two were performed by Dr. Black to repair his pelvis and femur. This is usually an extremely tricky procedure, but in surgery, Nick’s pelvis “came together like a puzzle piece,” says Erin Cuccia, Nick’s mother. The third surgery, performed by Dr. Khoshyomn, was to repair an unstable cervical spine involving two vertebrae in his neck, inserting a bone graft, plates and screws.
Doctors believe that because Cuccia is young, in shape and active, he was able to recover at a rate that exceeded their expectations. “For lack of a better word, [it was] a perfect storm,” says Jace Cuccia, Nick’s father.
Cuccia underwent occupational and physical therapy—he’s still in physical therapy—and other than the occasional sharp nerve pain is close to normal. It’s a remarkable recovery given the severity of the accident and his injuries.
“Nobody would know that he’s been in this accident if they met him or had a conversation with him,” Erin says.