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"I was Jane Doe": Amtrak's train wreck mom who survived commuting from hell

On a spring night of 2015, Geralyn Ritter sprinted through a station on 30th Avenue in Philadelphia and boarded a train to New York. The next thing she learned was that she was connected to the ventilation system of Elder Penn Medical Center and was fighting for her life. 

She "remembers she noticed that she had fallen and screamed," Ritter, 57, of White House Station, New Jersey, told Post. "That was the last memory I had." 

The infamous Amtrack train crashon May 12, 2015 killed eight people and killed eight people. Injured more than 200 passengers. Ritter is one of 11 seriously injured passengers, and a pharmaceutical company executive recollects her traumatic experience and intolerable recovery"Bone by Bone: A Memoir of Trauma and Healing," "(Core Media Group). on tuesday.

"What hit me over and over again was how normal the day was. Seven years ago that morning, my life was normal," Ritter wrote in a post. Told. "I was healthy, and I will never be that healthy again."

Geralyn Ritter, 57, was one of the survivors on board the deadly 2015 Amtrak 188 crash.
Geralyn Ritter pictured with her three sons and husband, Jonathan.
Bill Bernstein

On the night of the fateful crash, Ritter is the first on the train I was sitting in the business class that occupied the car. Her husband said in a text that Stephen, then eight, one of her three sons, was doing well in baseball practice early that night. Then she got up and took something out of the briefcase and noticed something was off.

"We noticed that we seemed to be moving faster. Usually the train is pulled out very slowly (from Philadelphia) and I'm always impatient," she says. I did. 

Her instinct was right. The North East Regional Service entered the Frankford Junction Curve in North Philadelphia and traveled 106 miles per hour. This is more than double the 50mph limit for the infamous 90 degree turn. The engineer applied the emergency brake, and a few seconds later, the train jumped over the track, according to the National Transportation Safety Board accident report,.

"I remember feeling like the train was falling and I thought it was impossible because the train wouldn't fall. We realized we were. "Ritter stepped back and said.

At least six people were killed and more than 200 others were injured in the 2015 Amtrak 188 crash.
Win McNamee / Getty Images
A passenger is carried following the Amtrak train crash.
Paul Cheung / AP
Investigators and first responders work near the wreckage of Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188, from Washington to New York, that derailed May 13, 2015 in north Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Win McNamee / Getty Images

Life went crazy

Ritter's body was thrown out of the train with enough force to push abdominal organs through her diaphragm and into her chest. Or what was left of it. The impact crushed most of her ribs and collapsed her lungs. She broke her pelvis and multiple vertebral bones on her neck and back. She ruptured her diaphragm and her bladder, and tore her spleen and intestines. She suffered a major blood loss and was unable to breathe.

"My stomach was above my heart. My colon was under my armpit," Ritter said.

The trouble is that she didn't have a wallet and was detached from her briefcase, so no one knew who she was.

"I was Jane Doe," she said.

Ritter's husband, Jonathan, could barely recognize his wife when she came out of surgery that harrowing spring morning in May, 2015.
Jonathan Ritter

Doctors were not optimistic about her prognosis.

"I didn't know if I would be paralyzed at the time," she said. "My surgeon later told me," There is no explanation for how your body absorbed so much force, and you don't have brain damage. "That's what I did. That's one of the reasons I can talk to you because I remember. 

Meanwhile, Ritter's husband, Jonathan, finally found her after searching for her hospitals one after another. He was initially unaware of her wife who was using her ventilator with her eye tape closed. But looking at her watch he gave her, he miraculously survived her crash, so he knew it was her girlfriend.

We found her, he sent a text to their eldest son Austin. She is alive.

Still, the doctor was afraid she couldn't survive.

"They told my family that I was unlikely to achieve it," Ritter said. Her brother flew from Fort Worth, Texas. He packed her dark suit.

A month later — Multiple surgeries to repair her intestine, screwing her pelvis and plating her broken ribs — Ritter is released from the hospital and she I went home in my wheelchair. By September she was able to walk a short distance, but her long recovery had just begun.

Ritter leaving the hospital after spending weeks in the ICU.
Jonathan Ritter

Road to Recovery

In the face of pain and post-traumatic stress disorders, Ritter became increasingly depressed and dependent on drugs.

"I was taking a lot of fentanil andoxycontin," she recalled. "I was lying on my back in bed and couldn't even reach the medicine bottle next to it."

Lack of mobility and independence would be difficult for a recovering patient. For Ritter, who flew home from China and rushed back to the local baseball field to live a fast-paced life cheering for the boys, the change in her life was hell — both her and on. In her marriage.

Ritter spent most of the summer of 2015 in a wheelchair before moving to a walker and crutches. She slowly started to walk again in September.
Jonathan Ritter

"My husband is completely focused on his career I had to move on to becoming-the caretaker of time for me and our son, "Ritter said. "We both responded differently to stress. He was so angry at the accident that I was just sad. I simply couldn't give each other what they needed. There have been many times. ”

Over time, she became dependent on opioids.

"At first, gratitude was everything. I was very grateful and alive and had no brain damage," she said. "But you can only thank for the great pain for a long time."

Ritter battled opioid dependency months after her surgeries to relieve chronic pain.
Jonathan Ritter

Six months after the accident, she decided to quit the drug under medical supervision. She turned to overall pain control methods such as meditation, breathing, exercise, and gentle yoga.

She succeeded and now uses over-the-counter medications to manage her pain.

"Only Adville and Tyrenoll," she proudly said. "But I drink a lot of Advil and Tyrenoll."

Ritter began to talk again by the fall of 2015.
Jonathan Ritter

She And Jonathan eventually received expert counseling to help him adapt to the new reality. They will soon be celebrating their 25th anniversary.

In 2017, Ritter was finally able to return to the office. She is currently working as Foreign Affairs Officer for the Jersey City healthcare company Organon. She got on the train again and came back. She admits that Amtrack was initially nervous.

"The return trip was a long one," Ritter said.

Ritter recovering in physical therapy.
Jonathan Ritter

In the seven years since her crash, she has had more than 30 surgeries. Received. Major emergency abdominal surgery related to scar tissue. In August she will undergo hernia surgery.

"Everyone is facing a big setback. At some point we all experience something," Ritter said. "It's a metaphor for the light at the end of the tunnel. It doesn't leave the tunnel as it did when it entered the tunnel. It doesn't matter to return to normal. It changes. That's fine."

Ritter rests in bed after a surgery.
Jonathan Ritter
The mom of three is committed to her work in women's healthcare.
Bill Bernstein
Ritter and family.
Bill Burnstein