By Jano Tantongco
The surgeon who played a role in saving the life of two Second Precinct police officers injured in the line of duty on two separate occasions is set to step into the national spotlight Monday night for the coin toss before the New York Jets football game.
Dr. James Vosswinkel, chief trauma surgeon of the hospital, and his staff saved the lives of police officers Det. Nicholas Guerrero and Mark Collins who were injured in the line of duty in two separate incidents.
On Tuesday, Suffolk police officials announced that Vosswinkel will be named an honorary captain for Monday night’s game and will take the field before the game for the coin toss, which will be nationally broadcast on ESPN. The Jets, who play at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, are hosting First Responders Night.
Two years ago, Vosswinkel and his staff operated on Guerrero after he was brought to Stony Brook Hospital in critical condition. Guerrero and his partner made a traffic stop in Huntington, but the drive fled and struck Guerrero with the vehicle.
Collins was shot multiple times in a foot pursuit through Huntington Station in 2015.
Both Collins and Guerrero are also set to be honored at the game, which the Jets will play against the Indianapolis Colts.
“I could tell from what I’m experiencing right now, what I’ve been experiencing every day, has been nothing but fantastic,” Guerrero said. “To come back from the injuries that Mark and I both endured has been quite amazing. It’s a strong testament of what the hospital, the staff here provides.”
Collins guarded Guerrero while he was in the intensive care unit when he first met Vosswinkel. The following year, Collins knew coming to Stony Brook was the “best chance” he had to survive, he said.
“What a relief it was that when I was in the trauma room the first doctor that came in to talk to me was Dr. Vosswinkel,” Collins said.
The doctor, wearing a Jets fleece sweater, put his hands on Collins’ shoulder as he began to introduce himself.
“Doc, you don’t have to introduce yourself. I know who you are,” Collins told Vosswinkel. “I saw the way you took care of Nick. I know I’m in good hands.”
Vosswinkel said that Stony Brook has had a long-lasting relationship with the SCPD. He recognized that they put both their own and their family’s lives on the line for their work.
“When we take care of officers, it’s a very special moment,” Vosswinkel said. “That we can see two critical officers return to duty and advance… that’s all the hope and thanks anybody can get.”
SCPD Commissioner Timothy Sini thanked Vosswinkel, adding that despite police officers and EMTs typically being recognized as first-responders, doctors and nurses fill that role, as well.
Sini said the collaboration with the Jets was a “small token of appreciation” for the doctor, Collins and Guerrero, along with seven other members of the SCPD. Vosswinkel will also be able to bring 20 members of his staff along to run through the tunnel with the Jets.
“Det. Guerrero and Officer Collins wouldn’t be standing here today if it weren’t for the work of this trauma center, Dr. Vosswinkel and his staff,” Sini said. “We can’t thank them enough.”