The Hit and Run That Changed Corentin's Life
Mar 13, 2020 Katie Rosenblum
In November 2018, Corentin Villemeur was living his best life as an entertainment photographer. When he wasn't covering concerts in L.A., he was frequently jet-setting around the world.
That all changed suddenly one night as he was leaving a nightclub in Hollywood. As he was crossing the street, a car came barreling through the intersection, running the red light and hitting Corentin before taking off.
"One thing I've learned from this is that everyone goes through their own struggles, and we can't always see it from the outside. We need to be kinder to each other because we don't know what someone else is dealing with."
Bystanders, including many of Corentin's friends, jumped into action to help as he lay injured in the street. He was rushed to the Cedars-Sinai ER.
Corentin was admitted to the intensive care unit with a subdural hematoma, subarachnoid hematoma, spleen injury, broken leg, broken scapula and several broken ribs. He also suffered from a collapsed lung.
Doctors performed a tracheotomy to help him breathe, inserted a chest tube and gave Corentin a craniotomy.
A long road to recovery
Doctors kept Corentin in a medically induced coma for a week.
"I remember when I woke up, my brother asked for the password on my phone," Corentin says. "I wrote it down, and they were all so excited that it worked because they were testing my brain to see how I was recovering."
He later had a stroke and then quickly developed pneumonia. He would have several more surgeries to repair his injuries in the following weeks.
He spent about six weeks in the surgical ICU before being moved to an inpatient floor for several more weeks. He was later transferred to a rehabilitation facility.
There he went through physical therapy and speech therapy to help relearn many of the basic skills he would need, including how to swallow and walk.
"One of the hard things to relearn was typing text messages on my phone," Corentin says. "That made communicating very difficult because I still had a tracheotomy, so I couldn't talk and it was very frustrating."
He also struggled to learn how to cough and swallow. When he finally mastered those skills, he was cleared to drink liquids.
"I sent my brother to get me a red Gatorade. It was my dream," he remembers. "I was so happy to have that."
Adjusting to a new normal
As he passed each new milestone, such as eating solid foods, showering on his own and walking without assistance, Corentin began to reflect on what had happened.
After the accident, his parents had flown in from his native France and never left his side. His mother kept journals of everything he experienced. Those journals are proving valuable to Corentin as he pieces together what happened.
"I wasn't conscious for so much of it and was on serious medications, so I'm still trying to realize everything that happened. Certain things I'm learning about now," he says.
He's hit some speedbumps in his recovery, including developing epilepsy, but he's still focused on getting better each day. He's eager to get back to breakdancing, a milestone still off in the distance.
As he continues to improve, Corentin no longer uses a cane and doesn't have any outward signs of his ordeal. And although he looks fine, he's still working through physical challenges.
"One thing I've learned from this is that everyone goes through their own struggles and we can't always see it from the outside," he says. "We need to be kinder to each other because we don't know what someone else is dealing with."
As part of his efforts to be kinder, Corentin regularly visits the nurses who saved his life.
"I want to thank them for everything they did for me and it feels great to show them my progress," he says. "I have ups and downs, but I'm grateful to be here. They did incredible work to get me here."
And his care team enjoys seeing his recovery just as much as he enjoys sharing it.
"Our job as trauma surgeons is not always easy, but patients like Corentin give us a reason to keep doing what we do," says Dr. Galinos Barmparas, one of the trauma surgeons who cared for Corentin. "Seeing his recovery makes everything worth it."