2022 In Review: The Year’s “Jersey-est” Your HHRS News Awards


WOMAN OF THE YEAR: LAUREN SOTO, EDISON. You’d think that one of the first stomach-stapling patients would be monitored over the years. But Soto found herself with hernias that threatened her ability to breathe. She found doctors willing to fix her inevitably life-ending problem — but since they were not within her health insurance network, she’d have to pay them $10,000 first. A GoFundMe campaign was successful, fortunately — Single payer health insurance much?

MAN OF THE YEAR: JIM RAFFONE, MANALAPAN. As the father of a 13-year-old with the terminal disease Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and founder/CEO of the JAR Of Hope foundation, Raffone came up with what seemed to be an insurmountable fundraising idea: climbing Mount Everest. After two weeks, three companions (one also from New Jersey), a record number of pushups, an 18 thousand-foot elevation, and less than an hour at the summit because there was so little oxygen, $180,000 was raised towards a formal hospital research study of Duchenne.

HONORARY JERSEY GAL HONORS: ALYSSA, England. Thirteen-year-old Alyssa was diagnosed with extra aggressive T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In order to receive base editing immune system therapy, she spent 16 weeks in the hospital. Her previous two checkups have found her cancer free, and her mother feared that this Christmas would be her last.

HONORARY JERSEY GUY HONORS: FELIX GRETARSSON, France. He lost both arms in a power line accident and spent three months in a coma during which he was operated on 54 times. What do you do for an encore — how about a double arm and shoulder transplant? As the nerves in his new arms reconnect (it will take about two years), he is re-experiencing such activities as scratching his head and hugging his grandchildren.

COUPLE OF THE YEAR: AMY DeGISE and ANDREW BLACK. According to delivery cyclist Black, he was riding through an intersection’s green light in Jersey City when driver (and local politician) DeGise drove through and struck him. According to news reports, DeGise didn’t stop — and didn’t turn herself in until six hours later — because the impact had caused a concussion. According the intersection’s surveillance camera, the light was red when Black entered it — but since DeGise had not yet entered it, she should have yielded the right of way even if her light was green.

LEAST WELCOME TREND: Corporate Hospital Takeovers. Saint Peters and RWJ Barnabas (called off). Hackensack Bergen County and Meridian Health (called off by Justice Department). United Health Group and Change Healthcare (completed after winning Justice Department lawsuit). Two out of three isn’t bad.

MOST WELCOME TREND: Police and Mental Health Intervention Teaming Up. Just a few months after completing training for dealing with those in mental health crisis, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Crisis Intervention Team got to put their theories into practice. A man in Keyport was calmed, disarmed, and transported to safety within minutes; while a homeless transgender living in a van in a parking was talked out of suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. And it Hunterdon County, autistic drivers are provided with a “blue envelope” explaining what to expect and do when pulled over.

DISS-HONORABLE MENTION: Just in time for the holidays, TikTok has come up with with a brand new unhealthy health challenge, this one with a psychological flavor: telling family members that their favorite celebrities have died suddenly, and filming their reactions, which have “included everything from screams to tears to a stiff drink, only to be told that the so-called news was nothing more than a joke.” Har dee har har.

HONORABLE MENTION: Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan hasn’t been letting grass grow under his feet after his horrific truck accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. He was treated at the JFK Johnson Center for Brain Injuries, and has most recently paid his respects by presenting their annual Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation Nursing.


2022 In Review: The Year’s Top News Stories And Awards
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