Crash survivors thankful for the crews who saved them - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Crash survivors thankful for the crews who saved them

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ROCKFORD (WREX) -

There are deadly crashes every day in Illinois.

A Rockford mother and son were nearly part of that statistic last year in a devastating hit-and-run crash. 

But thanks to Rockford firefighters and paramedics, they are alive today and ready to thank the men and women who saved their lives at an annual survivor's event.

On April 7, 2016, Rosa Portale's life changed forever.

"I remember the impact. All the windows in the car broke instantly. I flew partially through the rear windshield. Then everything just went black," she says. 

"My first thoughts were just of my son. Wondering where he was. Whether or not he survived."

Her 21-year-old son Cruz was driving when a speeding car crashed into them head on. Rosa suffered debilitating injuries: a broken pelvis and four broken discs in her back. But Cruz's injuries were much worse. 

"You could tell when we pulled up to the scene it was a pretty bad wreck," says Luke Schneider, a Rockford firefighter and paramedic.

"I just remember the car being pretty mangled up and off the road quite a ways," says another firefighter, Steve Franco.

The firefighters and paramedics knew they had to act fast when they pulled up to the crash on 28th and Broadway. 

"To see him flailing and reaching and yelling out in pain but not being able to respond to me at all, not conscious enough to have any kind of answers. Coherently, he's just in survival mode and we just needed to get him out as quickly as possible," says firefighter Kimberly Schlanger.

Cruz had to be cut out of the car. He was alive but just barely. The crew rushed him to the hospital, still unsure if he would survive. 

His injuries were catastrophic. "Two hemispheres in my brain got split in half," Cruz says. 

"My lungs were filled with fluid, I went through seven liters of blood. My liver burst on impact," Cruz says, describing this injuries.

He ended up having to have six surgeries.

After more than a month in the hospital, Cruz finally got to go home, something he and his mother say wouldn't have happened had it not been for firefighters and paramedics the night of the wreck. 

"My son wouldn't be here if they didn't do their job well and they didn't work as fast as they did, so I'm very grateful to them," Rosa says.  

"Thank you very much for doing what you do. Because clearly I wouldn't be here without you guys," Cruz says. "I'm really thankful for that."

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