Jan Kwiatkowski is finally going home.
The 60-year-old Polish émigré, who was apparently hit by a car in Greenpoint on Sept. 10 and who has remained in Bellevue Hospital for the last seven months paralyzed from the neck down, leaves Friday for Warsaw on a KLM flight accompanied by his “Mother Teresa” physician, Dr. Arthur Winer, a second year internal medicine expert at Bellevue, and a Polish speaking nurse.
An ambulance will meet the trio in Warsaw and transport them to a long term care facility in Ostroleka, Kwiatkowski’s home town, about 90 minutes away.
“He’s ecstatic,” Winer said of his patient. “I don’t think he thought this would ever become a reality.”
Kwiatkowski, who speaks only Polish, was the subject of two crowdfunding campaigns — one Winer started on GoFundMe and another by an athletic trainer of Polish descent, Adam Kossakowski, on Fundly — to help him return to Poland, where he has an adult daughter and three grandchildren.
“Here, I suffer. There, I might be suffering, but I’ll be closer to family,” the widower told amNY in February through a Bellevue interpreter.
Winer and Kossakowski aimed to raise $300,000 and $100,000, respectively, to pay medevac costs for Kwiatkowski, who is fed through a tube in his stomach and unable to move. The amounts raised fell short of their targets, but after a group of Bellevue Hospital employees called various airlines “we found out that KLM has ‘stretcher services,’ which involves removing several seats,” and which will allow Kwiatkowski to fly prone, said Winer. The fare will be about 12,000 euros (or $13,000) and the rest of the money Winer raised from more than 500 people — about $20,000 — will go into a trust fund to pay his ongoing medical expenses.
Kossakowski, who lives in the East Village, intends to continue raising money for his friend. “We would like him to have two sessions of physical therapy per day,” but, just as in the U.S., services can be less than ideal, he said.
News coverage concerning Kwiatkowski’s plight resulted in donations and in “a lot of new friends,” which helped alleviate his loneliness and isolation, said Winer, who wanted to thank amNY readers and others who helped. One do-gooder donated a high-quality manual wheelchair, which will also be taking the trip to Poland.
There is also good news on the medical front: The long-term hospital resident “is getting some swallowing function back,” though a few pureed foods are all he can eat at present, Winer noted.
Kossakowski thinks Kwiatkowski will be gobbling the bigos, kielbasas and the pierogies he misses in no time. “He’s eating now! He has a lot of ladies visiting him nowadays: They show up out of nowhere and bring him meals!” Kossakowski said.
Kwiatkowski’s daughter told Winer “there will be a big party waiting for us,” when the trio arrives in Ostroleka.