MANHASSET, NY – “I really didn’t think I was going to make it.”
Stephanie Epstein, the 20-year-old from Great Neck who survived a 5,000- pound oak tree pinning her to her bed, said that was her feeling when she was awakened by a crash that sounded like thunder.
“You never imagine when you go to sleep in your own bed…in your home, surrounded by your family….that something like this is going to happen,” she said. “It’s so hard to process what happened.”
Ms. Epstein, home on summer break from the State University of New York at Binghamton, showed remarkable composure Friday as she discussed the incident and her care at North Shore University Hospital in front of a throng of media. She and her parents, Dr. Geoffrey Epstein and Rachel Epstein, and her sister, Debbie, joined in to thank all the doctors and first responders who rushed to her assistance and spent more than 2 hours trying to get her out from under the giant oak that crashed through her roof early Monday morning. She was released from the hospital later on Friday.
“Imagine being awakened from a deep sleep to hear your daughter screaming for help,” Dr. Epstein said about running into see why his daughter was screaming. “My first thought was that a bomb had gone off in the house."
“At one point, there were over 100 first responders in the house, all working together to get Stephanie free. All I can remember is lots of prayer during that time. In fact, prayer becomes integral at a time like this, no matter what you believe in."
“All I can say, besides thank you to everyone who helped us, is that what started for us as a nightmare for all nightmares ended as a miracle for all miracles. When I remember what I saw when I first walked in and saw the position of the tree, it’s amazing that we’re sitting here at all.”
One of the first people to jump in and help was their neighbor Steven Blocker, a volunteer firefighter.
“I heard the tree fall, and rushed right over,” said Mr. Blocker, of the Great Neck Vigilant Fire Department. “Stepanie was very brave during the time it took all of us to remove the tree and keep her stable. Her mom and dad did a great job of keeping her calm, as well.”
James Maurer, MD, is a trauma surgeon who treated Stephanie from the time she arrived at the hospital until her discharge Friday.
After thanking the many teams of doctors, surgeons, nurses, and therapists who banded together to assess Stephanie’s situation, Dr. Maurer turned to Stephanie and called her “one tough cookie.”
Ms. Epstein became emotional while giving thanks to the first responders, her doctors and her family.
“What’s amazing is that nothing is broken,” she said. “I have some cuts and bruises, some soreness, but I’m much better and looking forward to going home."
Does she believe miracles?
“I do now!” she said.
About North Shore-LIJ Health System
One of the nation's largest health systems, North Shore-LIJ delivers world-class clinical care throughout the New York metropolitan area, pioneering research at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, a visionary approach to medical education highlighted by the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, and healthcare coverage to individuals, families and businesses through the CareConnect Insurance Co. Inc. North Shore-LIJ cares for people at every stage of life at 19 hospitals and more than 400 outpatient physician practices throughout the region. North Shore-LIJ’s owned hospitals and long-term care facilities house more than 6,400 beds, employ more than 13,000 nurses and have affiliations with about 10,000 physicians. With a workforce of about 54,000, North Shore-LIJ is the largest private employer in New York State. For more information, go to www.northshorelij.com.