U.S. Army veteran Luis Rios, 25, of Brentwood, returned to North Shore University Hospital to thank health system president and CEO Michael Dowling for approving two pro bono surgeries that restored his shattered face following a violent road rage attack.
Accompanied by his emotional mother, Maribel Rios, and sister Emily, Rios also expressed gratitude to his plastic surgeon, James Bradley, MD, for rebuilding the center of his face that was left deformed as a result of being beaten multiple times with a crowbar.
The return to North Shore occurred just one day before the annual remembrance of National Day of the Deployed on Oct. 26, which is set aside to raise awareness of the sacrifices made by deployed military members of service and their families.
Rios explained that he had contemplated the possibility of his own death on more than one occasion.
“I enlisted in the Army in 2012 because I wanted to serve my country, see the world and improve myself,” Rios said. “During my six years of service, I toured in Afghanistan as a Sergeant E5 in Infantry Combat Arms. There were 33 of us who went in my unit; 30 of us came back. I remember thinking when I came home that I was finally safe.”
Rios returned home to Long Island in 2018 and began work in a local glove factory. He started as a line worker and quickly rose to the role of manager. He was just beginning to readjust to civilian life when everything changed on July 28.
“It was 11:30 p.m. when my friend and I were driving home from work,” Rios said. “While we were stopped at a stop sign, we noticed that another car had pulled in front of us and cut us off. Words were exchanged. One of the last things I remember is a man approaching my side of the car.”
Trapped in his vehicle, Rios was struck four times directly in the middle of his face with a crowbar. Bleeding profusely, he realized that his nose had become unattached from his face. At that time, he remembered thinking that he was going to die. All of this happened two blocks from his home.
After being stabilized at another hospital, Rios found his way to Bradley at North Shore. Realizing that Rios had no insurance, Bradley approached Dowling, who agreed to allow Rios’ surgeries to go forward at no cost to the patient.
“It’s been a great honor to work with Luis, and to celebrate his recovery at this time when we recognize all our members of service who are deployed,” Bradley said. “He served our country – he served us. Now, it’s our chance to serve him.”
Dowling discussed the various ways Northwell works to honor military veterans upon their return. In the last year alone, the health system has hired 550 veterans. In addition, he described Northwell’s policy of offering military team members pay differential that makes up the difference between their military salary and their Northwell salary.
“We thank Luis for his service to our country, as we celebrate all of the members of our military. Our decision to provide pro bono surgeries to him is just another aspect of our ongoing commitment to veterans,” Dowling said.
The first surgery took place on Sept. 3, during which time Rios underwent full nasal reconstruction with soft tissue taken from his ribs. The second surgery, on Oct. 8, was performed to further improve the appearance of his nose.
Seated between his doctor and his mother, Rios said, “I’ve always been the kind of guy who likes to hold my head up high. Thanks to my wonderful doctor and Northwell Health, I don’t have to keep my head down pointed at the floor. I can walk with pride again and get back to my life.”
Submitted by Northwell Health