Just under three months since he was seriously injured in an Auburn Hills car accident as a passenger, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson returned to work on Tuesday, Oct. 30, meeting with staff, county employees and the media in an emotional news conference in which Patterson, 73, became tearful at times.
“I want to say this without crying, but today I walked 168 steps on my own, but who’s counting,” said Patterson, visibly thinner after sustaining significant orthopedic injuries — a broken hip, leg, ankle, five ribs, and both wrists — in the accident that also seriously injured his driver, Jim Cram, who remains hospitalized.
Patterson was released from McClaren Oakland Hospital in Pontiac last month and entered a third phase of physical rehabilitation after that.
“Thank you for not only the job you did, but I got so many cards and prayers and good wishes from all of you — wishes and prayers from Republicans, Democrats, independents,” said Patterson, who was one of three people in the accident not wearing a seatbelt.
Patterson, who extended multiple thanks to county employees and his administrative team, revealed that he was in a coma for 17 days following the accident and that his chance for recovery given the extent of his injuries “was in the single-digits.”
He said at the press conference that he doesn’t “remember a thing” about the accident.
“It’s dad’s will to be here and God’s will,” said Patterson’s daughter, Mary Warner. “I would pray just to let him go back to work — that’s all he wants. He loves his job.”
Cram and Patterson were traveling eastbound on Walton when their Chrysler 300 entered the road’s intersection with Opdyke on a green traffic signal. The Chrysler struck the Volkswagen Passat driven by Anthony Prainito when he turned in front of it.
Also injured in the accident were Cram, 60; Prainito, 31; and Raymond Recchia, 51, the passenger in the Passat and the only person wearing a seatbelt in the accident.
Patterson was cited by the Auburn Hills Police Department for the seatbelt infraction and paid a $65 fine.
“I have made a commitment to wear the belt every day going forward,” said Patterson, who also called the decision not to wear a seatbelt “stupid” and “wrong.”
“If I have to become the poster boy for Click It or (Ticket), I’ll do it.”
Prainito is facing three misdemeanor charges of committing a moving violation resulting in serious impairment of a bodily function for allegedly causing the accident.
Police say it appears that the Volkswagen failed to yield the right-of-way, causing the crash.
Illegal drugs or alcohol were determined not to have been factors in the Aug. 10 crash.