Man who survived 47-storey fall from skyscraper wakes

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A window-washer who fell 47 stories from the roof of a Manhattan skyscraper is now awake, talking to his family and expected to walk again.

Alcides Moreno, 37, fell almost 152 metres when scaffolding collapsed on 7 December, killing his brother. Somehow, Mr Moreno lived, and doctors at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center said yesterday that his recovery has been astonishing.

He has movement in all his limbs. He is breathing on his own. And on Christmas Day, he opened his mouth and spoke for the first time since the accident.

His wife, Rosario, cried as she thanked the doctors and nurses who kept him alive. "Thank God for the miracle that we had," she said. "He keeps telling me that it just wasn't his time."

Dr Herbert Pardes, the hospital's president, described Mr Moreno's condition when he arrived for treatment as "a complete disaster". Both legs and his right arm and wrist were broken in several places. He had severe injuries to his chest, his abdomen and his spinal column. His brain was bleeding. Everything was bleeding, it seemed.

In the first critical hours, doctors pumped 24 units of donated blood into his body about twice his entire blood volume. They gave him plasma and platelets and a drug to stimulate clotting and stop the bleeding. They inserted a catheter into his brain to reduce swelling and cut open his abdomen to relieve pressure on his organs.

Mr Moreno was at the edge of consciousness when he was brought in. Doctors sedated him, performed a tracheotomy and put him on a ventilator. His condition was so unstable that doctors worried that even a mild jostle might kill him, so they performed his first surgery without moving him to theatre. Nine orthopedic operations followed to piece together his body.

Even when things were at their worst, the hospital's staff marvelled at his luck. Mr Moreno's head injuries were minor, for a fall victim. A neurosurgeon, John Boockvar, said he also avoided a paralysing spinal cord injury, even though he had a shattered vertebra.

"If you are a believer in miracles, this would be one," said the hospital's chief of surgery, Dr Philip Barie.

New York-Presbyterian has treated people who have tumbled from great heights before, including a patient who survived a 19-storey fall, but most of those tales end sadly. The death rate from even a three-storey fall is about 50 per cent, Dr Barie said. People who fall more than 10 stories almost never survive.