After sustaining serious injuries in the 2020 crash, a Riverhead officer faced a long and difficult journey back to work
About 20 months after a horrific accident while on duty, Riverhead Constable Rob Sproston is back: back in the police force, back in the fire department, even back in the US Marines.
But it was not easy, although he kept a positive attitude.
“The whole storyline was not fun, but from where I am now – if I look back at all the photos of how I was then – I am so blessed,” said Mr Sproston, 29. , who came within inches of his life following an accident on March 31, 2020 in his patrol car.
He’s been back in the force since July 1, doing light labor, often signing people up at town hall or answering phones.
He’s also back to answering calls as a volunteer for the Riverhead Fire Department – he responded to the tragic Second Street fire last week, and he’s back with the US Navy Reserves, where he received a promotion from corporal to sergeant.
It has been a long road.
Mr Sproston was responding to an ongoing lawsuit this March afternoon at the start of the pandemic which first arrived in the East End in Greenport. He was heading north on Osborn Avenue in Calverton, near Youngs Avenue, with his hazard lights flashing. There he was involved in a collision with another northbound vehicle turning onto Youngs Avenue.
Mr. Sproston’s police car pulled off the road and collided with a chain-link fence. A post at the top of the fence crossed Mr. Sproston’s cheek and came out the other side. He lost six teeth in the process and his jaw was broken.
The accident is still hazy in his memory.
“I was cold when I was hit by the pipe,” he said. “I was away from that point on for almost three weeks. ”
After spending a month at Stony Brook University Hospital, including time in an induced coma, he then spent three weeks at St. Charles’s Hospital in Port Jefferson for rehabilitation.
“For about three weeks I learned to walk again,” he said in an interview.
His weight dropped from 158 to 120 during his hospitalization.
On the day of the crash, Mr. Sproston was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center where he was stabilized and then airlifted to Stony Brook.
“It only takes about eight minutes for a helicopter to get from Riverhead to Stony Brook,” said William Sproston Sr., Rob’s grandfather. “These birds crank.”
“They told us the first 48 hours were the most critical after surgery,” said William Sr. “The doctors were amazing. The operation lasted from 7:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.
Last Thursday, Mr Sproston met with three of the PBMC team members who stabilized him from the crash, including a trauma surgeon who found an airway to allow him to breathe.
“I have so much confidence in these surgeons that whatever they want to do, I’m here for the ride,” said Mr. Sproston.
The accident was not easy for his family.
“We were devastated,” said William Sr., describing the times they learned of the crash. “There is no way of knowing what the outcome will be.”
Rob’s father, Bill, is a member of the Riverhead Fire Department and responded to the collision this March afternoon.
“I was in the fire truck, but I didn’t know it was Rob at the time of the accident,” he said.
“The chief took me aside and told me it was Robert. I said ‘I want to see him’ and he said ‘You don’t want to see him, he’s not doing very well. He’s in bad shape right now. “
Bill Sproston said he was “more shocked than anything” at the time.
“All I was thinking is that I might not have a son in a little while,” said Bill Sproston.
But since then, “his recovery has been very good,” he said. “He’s still healing. But he wouldn’t have had this conversation eight months ago.
On May 15, 2020, Mr. Sproston left the Saint Charles Rehabilitation Center and was brought home. It received a hero’s welcome, with police motorcycles, fire trucks and ambulances from many departments and even an aerial display with a C-130 and two helicopters from the 106th Air National Guard Rescue Wing flying overhead.
“I had a parade at home,” he said. “I was in the East Quogue ambulance.” One of his close friends is a member of the East Quogue Fire Department, he said.
He said he couldn’t see much from the ambulance, but he has since seen the many photos and videos of the event.
His former fire department, Rocky Point, also participated in the parade.
Mr. Sproston said he now knows everyone at Town Hall. He is often the first person residents see when they enter the building. He hopes to return to full-time service.
“Everyone welcomed me with open arms,” he said. In some cases, he’s been greeted by people he doesn’t even know.
He said he was working at city hall when a “big guy” said to him, “I heard about your story and prayed for you.”
Mr Sproston said he did not know the man and eventually asked him who he was.
“He said, ‘You arrested me.’ The fact that I am receiving treatment like this from someone I arrested just shows that I am doing something right.
He has at least one more operation coming up with a plastic surgeon. He said his nose also needed to be straightened.
He still has a scar on the right side of his face. He jokes, “I like the scar. It looks cool.