Harrison Goldberg – Liver Laceration

Learn more about Harrisons experience with a Liver Laceration at Children's Hospital.

Kids and bikes go together like peanut butter and jelly. It’s a natural combination. There they go—racing in the fresh air, laughing and burning off excess energy. But even with helmets and adult supervision, accidents can happen. And even the simple accidents can become dangerously serious. Just ask Harrison Goldberg and his family.

Harrison took a tumble off his bike in late September 1999. He and his nine-year-old identical twin brother, Reid, and some friends were having fun on their bikes when Harrison “hit a bump weird and landed on the handle bars.”

Rich Goldberg, his dad, was there. “I went over to him,” says Rich, “and he was curled up, complaining that he couldn’t breath. He said he had a pain in his stomach, so, I lifted up his shirt expecting to see a bruise or some bleeding. But, there weren’t any marks at all. I assumed that he just got the wind knocked out of him.”

But Harrison’s pain worsened, and the Goldbergs called an ambulance. The seriousness of Harrison’s injury did not become apparent until a short time later when he was examined in the emergency room at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Harrison’s mother, Emily Goldberg, explains, “Within five minutes of being in the emergency room, Dr. [Henri] Ford (the director of the Benedum Pediatric Trauma Program at UPMC Children's Hospital) told us that Harrison needed emergency surgery. His abdomen was filling up with blood and something needed to be done immediately. During surgery they found a severe liver laceration. It had been punctured internally.”

Harrison was in a life-threatening situation. The surgical team needed to stop the bleeding, so they packed his abdomen and then medically induced a coma for 48 hours to keep him motionless. Harrison’s condition had to stabilize so doctors could perform a second operation to repair his damaged liver.

“If they could stop the bleeding within 48 hours, they expected Harrison to have a full recovery. Those were two long days,” Rich explains. When surgeons went back in, they were able to make the needed repairs and found no damage to any of Harrison’s other organs.

Many Pittsburghers tend to take places like Children’s for granted, observes Rich. “If we lived somewhere else, I wonder what might have happened. There’s really no question that with the severity of Harrison’s injury, the outcome could have been very different. I firmly believe that having pediatric trauma surgeons, pediatric anesthesiologists, pediatric equipment and experienced pediatric nursing care really makes a difference,” adds Rich.

Indeed, Harrison did have some heavy hitters pulling for him, including heavy weight pro-wrestler “Goldberg” (no relation). Goldberg learned of the accident and e-mailed and called Harrison to wish him well. “Stay strong, Shorty,” he wrote.

Harrison made it, but not without facing additional challenges after coming home. Emily says Harrison was readmitted to the hospital several times in the fall because of infections. Then he underwent surgery again at the end of December to correct an intestinal blockage, a condition that developed because of his injury. He came home again on New Year’s Eve in time for the dawn of the new millennium.

Though Harrison missed 65 out of 90 days of school, he still managed to achieve straight As. One of his school projects this year was to look ahead to the next millennium – the year 3000. He had to predict what new invention will be in use that doesn’t exist today. Harrison says, “I think the invention will be a force field around your organs so they can’t be cracked or injured.” People will get the force field when they are babies. Who will be the inventors? Dr. Henri Ford and Bill Gates, Harrison replies.

Surprisingly, considering the seriousness of his injury, a mere nine months after the accident, Harrison was deemed “back to normal” and headed off to summer camp. Emily reports, “He’s running, jumping and fighting – just like normal.” Rich adds, “He got a new bike, and he jumped right on it and rode just like he did (before the accident).”

Actually, side by side, it’s hard to tell one twin from the other. It was hard before the accident. It still is. According to Rich, it gives new meaning to the old phrase, “good as new.”