After car accident, Phillies employee comes back swinging

    Listen

    Steve Noworyta suffered big league injuries in a crash last year, but is nearly back to full strength.

    Steve Noworyta has the hulking build of a professional athlete. The former pitcher hung up his cleats some time ago, though, and now works in player development for the Philadelphia Phillies. That means he spends a lot of time with the team’s minor league players, and a lot of time on the road traveling to ballparks.

    Last April, he went to a day game in New Jersey to see the Lakewood BlueClaws. Afterward, he met with the coaching staff, then hopped in the car.

    “I left there around 3 o’clock, and I’m driving down Route 70, coming from Lakewood, going back to where I live in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey,” he says.

    Noworyta remembers two cars driving in the lane ahead of him, when a flash on the right caught his eye. In his shoulder, a car travelling in the wrong direction.

    “And when I saw that for that instant, I said, ‘Wow, what’s that?’ Cause it just kind of threw me off guard. And I was driving with one hand on the wheel, and then I just grabbed on [with] the other hand. I held on, and my words at that time were ‘Oh No.'”

    The oncoming driver lost control, began to fishtail, and slammed into Noworyta’s BMW.

    “He hit me on my passenger side, which was a pretty good hit…the sound of the metal, everything, an unbelievable sound…one sound that still sticks with me.”

    Then, a second collision, as Noworyta’s car was pushed into oncoming traffic.

    “An SUV hit me, and when he hit me, it was so hard. He rolled, I spun…I held onto the wheel, and as I was spinning, I said, ‘I am not going to die, I’m not going to die.’

    “And as soon as I said that, boom! Another car hit me. I’m like, jeez, how many cars are out there?”

    Then everything stopped.

    “I was still conscious, I knew where everything was at. I was kind of laying in the seat–the seat kind of fell back–but I couldn’t reach anything, couldn’t reach the doors, I couldn’t reach the roof of the car. When I realized I couldn’t move my one leg, I looked down, and I saw my femur [had] ripped through my pants. And it was caramel colored. It was just the bone sticking through.”

    A witness ran over to Noworyta’s car, and helped position his body to ease the pain in his leg. Paramedics arrived in short order, and transferred him to the hospital.

    “They wheeled me into the operating room, and I saw both doctors looking up at these two big huge TV screens, and I saw my leg, and they had their backs turned to me, and I said, ‘OK boys, let’s put this thing back together.’

    “And they start laughing. From that point on, all I remember is being knocked out, and then the next day, starting my road to recovery.

    Along with the compound fracture, he had a punctured lung and broken ribs.

    “About two weeks after the accident, I found out I had a fracture to my jaw. I guess everything else was in such pain that the jaw didn’t really matter. Then, finally, I was having a tough time chewing and biting down. They found out I had fractured my jaw.”

    He spent less than a week in the hospital, but had to stay off the bad leg for two months.

    “For me, sitting around two minutes is long enough, let alone two months.”

    Noworyta worked his way up to hobbling around on a walker. He would push it around the L.A. Fitness, where he burned off energy on the upper body machines.

    He also began daily rehab on the leg, gaining strength and flexibility. A year later, he still walks with a slight hitch, but was recently given full medical clearance.

    “It’s amazing, that just in a matter of seconds, my life had changed,” he says.

    “Just sitting in the car, you think of my family, and my wife and the kids, and then all of a sudden, how my life changed with this accident, to open my eyes in many ways…My wife always said, [you’ve] got to stop and smell the roses.

    “Boy, I tell you what, I’ve been smelling them. I’ll tell ya that much.”

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.