Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan presented the “Tracy Morgan Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation Nursing” to a nurse who has been working to heal patients with brain injuries for more than two decades.

In an emotional, virtual event to recognize Brain Injury Awareness Month, Morgan congratulated Patricia Bosompem, RN, CRRN, on being this year’s recipient. Bosompem is an experienced brain injury nurse at Hackensack Meridian JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute.

“Congratulations Patricia and thank you for all you do for patients. Thank God for you and nurses like you,” Morgan said. “You all told me, ‘Trust in the doctors, trust in the nurses, trust in the process and you will get better.’ You trust and you can get better.”

Bosompem said she was honored and would never forget the award and will continue to share the inspiring story of Morgan’s recovery with her patients.

“I remember I saw you on TV and I thought, ‘Wow, I did something to change a person’s life,’” Bosompem said. “We do that every day on the Brain Trauma Unit. When people have a brain injury, they may be confused, or agitated. We find ways to help them. Sometimes they come back to see us, and it’s so fulfilling.”

Bosompem was among the nurses at the JFK Johnson Brain Trauma Unit who cared for Morgan after the comedian was seriously injured and in a coma for two weeks following a 2014 accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. In the virtual event, Morgan was at times overcome with emotion and gratitude for his care, especially when he was asked how he felt being an inspiration to others with brain injuries.

“If I can be an inspiration to someone, that’s so big and I will gladly take on the challenge,” Morgan said. “I believe my life was spared for that reason. I know it can be very traumatizing when you or a family member has a brain injury. But you can overcome it. You can get better … You have to fight to get better and have a great support system. I had great nurses and doctors. I had the best in the world.”
Since Morgan’s recovery, he has returned to comedy as well as to producing and acting. He has publicly thanked the brain injury physicians, nurses and therapists at JFK Johnson for helping him reclaim his gift for comedy.

“God gave me a business and y’all helped me take care of it. I will always be grateful to you and the staff,” he said. He was asked how humor helped in his recovery.

“It’s the greatest medicine,” he said. “Everything that ever happened to me that was bad I turned funny … So, you know, I guess it helps the brain heal faster. I thank God that He gave me a sense of humor to share with the world to help others heal. That’s a good thing. That’s a beautiful thing.”

Robert C. Garrett, CEO, Hackensack Meridian Health, thanked Morgan.

“On behalf of the entire Hackensack Meridian Health network, I am thankful to Tracy Morgan for sharing the story of his recovery. He has inspired patients around the globe,” Garrett said. “We are honored to have JFK University Medical Center and JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute as part of the Hackensack Meridian Health network. The JFK Johnson Center for Brain Injuries provides the highest level of rehabilitative care for people throughout the region. Congratulations to Patricia Bosompem, who is very deserving of this year’s award. Patricia exemplifies the utmost in nursing care for patients with brain injuries.”

Bosompem joins previous honorees of the Tracy Morgan Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation Nursing: Jackie Chirichella, BSN, RN; Juan G. Ramirez, RN, CRRN; and Gina Domingo, RN, CRRN.

“These nurses all exemplify the highest standards of rehabilitation nursing skills, talents and dedication,” said Laura A. Mularz, DNP, MSN, director of Patient Care Services in Nursing Administration, JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute. She said Bosompem is meticulous in her duties and is a kind and patient mentor to new nurses.

“Patricia helps them navigate the challenging behaviors that our brain injury patients sometimes exhibit. Those behaviors can be overwhelming at times. Pat approaches these challenges peacefully, creating an environment of learning, not fear,” Mularz said.

Morgan starred for seven seasons on NBC’s Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning “30 Rock.” He also was a cast member for seven seasons on Saturday Night Live. He produced and stars in The Last O.G., a television series, and has starred in several movies, including What Men Want. Morgan’s recovery has been a subject of much of his comedy.

After his recovery, the comedian publicly thanked Brian D. Greenwald, M.D., medical director of the Center for Brain Injuries at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute. Dr. Greenwald recalled that after his injury Morgan feared he had lost the ability to make people laugh.

“So, he would try out material on my staff and me, and we were in stitches. I remember laughing and telling Tracy, ‘You will be back on-stage making people laugh.’ Today, Tracy continues to succeed in what he wants to do in life, and that is what we want for all of our patients,” Dr. Greenwald said.

Sara Cuccurullo, M.D., vice president and medical director of JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute, said that by sharing his story, Morgan has put a focus on the role of Rehabilitation nursing. Rehabilitation nurses design and implement treatment strategies and advance the physical and emotional health of their patients after a disabling injury or chronic illness.

“Tracy is honoring the specialized training, skills and dedication of Rehabilitation nurses everywhere,” Dr. Cuccurullo said.
“Rehabilitation nurses help the tens of thousands of Americans hospitalized each year with brain injuries. The goal is for all patients to reach their fullest potential.”

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