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SU student injured by hit-and-run driver recovering slowly in New Jersey hospital
SU student injured by hit-and-run driver recovering slowly in New Jersey hospitalJanuary 11, 2002Kevin Morrowkdmorrow@syr.edu
A Syracuse University student critically injured in a hit-and-run car accident outside her Euclid Avenue apartment Dec. 14 is recovering slowly through intensive inpatient rehabilitation at a New Jersey hospital close to home, while the driver responsible for her condition remains at large.
Lisa Ellis, 20, a junior in the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), suffered severe head trauma after reportedly being flung 50 feet through the air and then striking the pavement.
At about 10:25 p.m. on that Friday night, Ellis walked out of her apartment along the 600 block of Euclid Avenue to greet Billy Ganey, a male stripper that she and some friends had hired to perform at the 21st birthday party of one of her housemates. Ganey had parked along the street. As he and Ellis stood talking by the driver’s side door of his Nissan Altima, a car westbound on Euclid swerved toward them. The onrushing car struck Ganey and knocked him to the ground; it crushed his driver’s side door against the Altima’s frame. Ellis was thrown against and over a Jeep parked in front of Ganey’s car. The driver sped away.
Both Ganey and Ellis were rushed to the emergency room at University Hospital. Ganey sustained minor injuries and was treated and released. Ellis was admitted in critical condition and underwent emergency brain surgery.
For her mother, Nancy, and twin sister, Kathy, a student at Clark University in Massachusetts, the next 10 days were nerve-racking. Colleen O’Connor Bench, director of the Parents Office, arranged hotel accommodations for the Ellises. Bench and several other Student Affairs staff, ECS administrators and faculty, and Lisa’s friends became hospital regulars, and Chancellor Kenneth A. Shaw and Vice Chancellor and Provost Deborah A. Freund visited.
By Christmas Eve, Lisa Ellis’ condition had improved enough to allow her transport by ambulance to the Rehabilitation Institute of Morristown Memorial Hospital, not far from her home in Randolph, N.J.
Ellis’ head injuries affected the left side of her body. According to Nancy Ellis, Lisa is slowly regaining the use of her left arm, leg and eye, and she is able to walk with some difficulty.
The hospital staff leads Ellis through occupational, physical and speech therapy several times a day. It is not known how long she will remain at the hospital. Lisa wakes each day at about 7:30 a.m. and goes to sleep at 7 or 7:30 p.m. She leaves her room for meals and therapy sessions. Nancy has breakfast with Lisa every morning and then departs the hospital for work; in the late afternoon, she returns to join Lisa for dinner.
“Lisa is getting better at doing word searches and math problems, is talking with friends on the telephone and in person, is walking and climbing stairs, is eating everything in sight, and is quite aware of what happened to her,” says Nancy Ellis. “She needs more practice in maintaining her balance and forgets who visited or called on a particular day, and sometimes forgets to wear her helmet.” Part of Ellis’ skull was removed in the operation and so she is required to don a helmet. She will need another operation to seal her skull; although the brain swelling has subsided, the timing of the operation has not been determined, her mother says.
Meanwhile, the search continues for the driver and car involved in the incident. After pursuing dozens of leads, Syracuse Police Department (SPD) investigators have not been able to identify the driver. They are awaiting results of analysis on debris found at the scene, hoping to discern more about the vehicle. “Although there is some physical evidence in this case, it is very important to remember that investigations of this nature are usually solved by someone coming forward with information about the incident,” says Capt. Drew Buske of SU’s Department of Public Safety.
According to the SPD, the vehicle may be a 1989 to 1991 Chevrolet Lumina, Pontiac Grand Prix or Buick Regal. The car is believed to have substantial damage to its front bumper and passenger side. Checks of local body shops have yielded no results, according to SPD Sgt. Tom Connellan.
Anyone who saw the accident or who may have information on the driver or vehicle is encouraged to contact the Syracuse Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division at 442-5222.
Nancy Ellis says she is thankful for the “many messages of love and encouragement and help” that she and both her daughters have received.
Lisa is becoming more aware each day, her mother says. “She’s starting to be disappointed that she can’t go back to school,” says Nancy Ellis. “What happens in the near future and then after that is unknown. We’ll figure it out day by day.”
For those wishing to contact Lisa Ellis, her address is Rehabilitation Institute of Morristown Hospital, Room 312, 95 Mt. Kemble Ave., Morristown, NJ 07962.