You could never imagine the horror that befell Ron Gold simply by looking at him. But on Thanksgiving weekend 10 years ago, the unthinkable changed Ron’s life -- forever.

“I was a big cyclist. On this unusually warm Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend in 2011, I was returning home from a 50-mile bicycle ride with friends when an SUV came barreling toward us,” said Ron, who was struck head on and thrown into the air, before landing unconscious on the pavement with his helmet intact. “Unimaginably, the driver fell asleep behind the wheel on a bright sunny day in Bergen County.”

When an individual suffers major traumatic injuries like Ron’s, or is in critical condition, where the patient is transported for care can mean the difference between life and death – as well as the quality of life the patient will have once they start to recover. 

Ron was immediately flown to Hackensack University Medical Center by the air medical team, AirMed One, where surgeons discovered life-threatening bleeding in his abdomen.

“I repaired his ruptured diaphragm, removed his bleeding spleen, repaired the injury to his pancreas and packed the bleeding in the retroperitoneum,” said the trauma surgeon on call, Saraswati Dayal, M.D., director, Surgical Intermediate Care Unit. “We also placed a tube into the left side of his chest. In addition, he had very significant injuries to his right leg and his spine. I didn’t know if he was going to survive the surgery, and when he did, I didn’t know if he would survive the night.” 

Surgeons also reconnected his lungs to his aorta and stabilized his spine. Ron spent 51 days in the intensive care unit, where he learned the sobering news that it was very unlikely that he would ever walk again. If not for the intensive treatment Ron received, the prognosis could have been much worse. 

“The surgeons saved everything about me and also put me in a position to move forward and do something positive with my life,” said Ron.

After more than a year of recovering both physically and emotionally, Ron started his own company, LeanOnWe, which connects families in need of home care with a network of private-hire caregivers who have been thoroughly vetted. He designed LeanOnWe’s service based on his personal experiences as the recipient of home care. 

Today, he is also a popular motivational speaker sharing his journey and lessons learned with companies, schools, and organizations.

Having always been extremely athletic, Ron began exploring activities he could undertake as a paraplegic. He chose rowing -- one of the most physically demanding sports out there. Not only do rowers require incredible endurance, they need to be strong and powerful in their core to propel their boats through the water at high speeds. This is not easily done when you have difficulty with balance and cannot move your legs.

Ron had a coach who specialized in working with adaptive rowers, Greta Nettleton, and a full support system at the Rockland Rowing Association in New York. This support helped him overcome physical and emotional barriers. He grew more passionate about rowing as time went on, and just this year, Ron and his able-bodied rowing partner, were selected to compete in the Head of the Charles in Boston, one of the world’s premier rowing competitions. They finished in under 30 minutes, achieving the goal they set. 

Ron Gold competing with partner, Ali McCann, in the 2021 “Head of the Charles” Race 

“For me, the end result has been exponentially greater than I could have ever imagined,” he said. 

If not for the critical care that Ron received at Hackensack, he said, this achievement never would have been possible and he might not be here today. This comprehensive lifesaving care is what contributed to Hackensack University Medical Center being recently verified as a Level 1 Trauma Center.

Trauma center verification is an evaluation process conducted by the American College of Surgeons and is used to evaluate and improve trauma care. Verified trauma centers must meet the essential criteria that ensure trauma care capability and institutional performance, as outlined by the American College of Surgeons’ Committee on Trauma in its current Resources for Optimal Care of the Injured Patient manual

Facilities are verified on different levels, with Level 1 being the highest designation and most comprehensive regional resource capable of providing total care for every aspect of injury. 

“Level I is the highest designation,” said Lisa Iachetti, MBA, BSN, RN, vice president, Operations, Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center. “This achievement not only recognizes Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University’s trauma center’s dedication to providing optimal care for injured patients, it also increases a seriously injured patient’s chances of survival by an estimated 20 to 25 percent.”

“We are very proud of being recognized as a Level 1 Trauma center by the ACS. It validates our commitment to the highest level of care of the injured patient,” said Sanjeev Kaul, MD, FACS, chief-Trauma Surgery & Surgical Critical Care, Hackensack University Medical Center -- and one of the surgeons who oversaw Ron’s care a decade ago. “The effusive praise by the reviewers distinguishes us as a top tier trauma center and celebrates the spirit of excellent collaborative care practiced by the trauma center. We hope to continue the journey of excellence in transforming trauma care in the region.”


Hackensack University Medical Center, a 771-bed nonprofit teaching and research hospital, is the largest provider of inpatient and outpatient services in New Jersey. Founded in 1888 as Bergen County's first hospital, it was the first hospital in New Jersey and second in the nation to become a Magnet®-recognized hospital for nursing excellence. The academic flagship of Hackensack Meridian Health, Hackensack University Medical Center ranked #1 in New Jersey and #7 in the New York metro area by U.S. News & World Report’s 2021-2022 “Best Hospitals” Honor Roll, making it the only hospital in New Jersey with the #1 adult and children’s hospital rankings. Hackensack University Medical Center is also rated as High Performing in 14 specialties procedures and conditions, and sets the standard for all New Jersey hospitals in several specialties. The campus is home to facilities such as John Theurer Cancer Center, the #1 hospital for cancer care in New Jersey in U.S. News & World Report’s 2021-2022 "Best Hospitals" Honor Roll; the Heart & Vascular Hospital, and the Sarkis and Siran Gabrellian Women’s and Children’s Pavilion, recognized as being in the top 1% of children’s hospitals in the nation and #1 children’s hospital in New Jersey by U.S. News & World Report’s 2021-22 "Best Hospitals" Honor Roll. Hackensack University Medical Center’s comprehensive clinical research portfolio includes studies focused on precision medicine, translational medicine, immunotherapy, cell therapy, and vaccine development.