Off ventilator, but facing a 'long road'

Over a week after Gov. Corzine's traffic accident, there is no estimate on when he will be able to resume his duties.

Posted: April 21, 2007

Gov. Corzine finally is breathing on his own.

His doctors took him off a ventilator just past noon yesterday, a Corzine spokesman said, more than a week after the serious car wreck that left him with 10 broken ribs, a snapped thigh bone, and a fractured breastbone, collarbone and vertebra.

"His respiratory function will be closely monitored to ensure that he can continue to breathe on his own and cough efficiently," said spokesman Anthony Coley. "Doctors do not entirely rule out the possibility that the breathing tube will need to be reinserted."

Asked whether Corzine, who had been answering yes and no questions with head movements, could speak now that the breathing tube has been removed, Coley said, "he's making some progress on that front."

"He has a long way to go before he gets back to his full speaking voice," Coley said.

Coley didn't see Corzine yesterday and was receiving information from the governor's doctors and family. He said he did not know whether Corzine, who had been fed through a tube since the April 12 wreck, was able to eat.

Corzine's doctors at Cooper University Hospital, where the governor remains in critical but stable condition, have said that he has always had the capacity to breathe. But he was so heavily sedated and his chest area in so much pain that he needed the ventilator to help him, they said.

Earlier this week, they began bathing his badly broken chest area with local anesthetic so they could begin lowering his pain medication - and finally remove him from the ventilator.

The plan seems to have worked, but with a side effect, Coley said. With his pain medication lowered, Corzine is now able to feel the pain associated with his badly broken left femur.

That bone - the strongest in the body - was one of many broken in the wreck, before which, state police say, Corzine wasn't wearing a seat belt and the vehicle he was traveling in was going 91 m.p.h.

The governor's SUV, emergency lights flashing, was on its way from Atlantic City to Princeton, where Corzine was to mediate a meeting between the Rutgers women's basketball team and radio host Don Imus, who had publicly insulted the players.

State police say a pickup traveling ahead of the motorcade pulled over to get out of the way, but then swerved back into traffic, causing a chain reaction that ended with Corzine's SUV slamming into a guardrail.

Ever since, Senate President Richard J. Codey (D., Essex) has been filling in for Corzine as acting governor.

Corzine's spokesman initially said Corzine could be back on the job by now. Yesterday, Coley said he didn't want to guess when the governor might be back to work.

"I don't have an estimate," Coley said. "I think that will all depend on how quickly Jon Corzine can recuperate from these injuries.

"He has a long road ahead of him."

Contact staff writer Jennifer Moroz at 609-989-8990 or

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