IRVING PARK — A suburban father whose leg was nearly amputated after a hit-and-run crash in Irving Park in May went home Thursday after weeks of surgeries and physical therapy.
The crash occurred May 14 outside The Cabin at Old Irving, 4104 N. Pulaski Road. Raul Basulto, an engineer from suburban Elmwood Park, was standing behind his parked Jeep Cherokee outside the business when the driver of a truck hit the car parked behind him, pinning him between the two cars, according to police and his family.
The trailer hitch on Basulto’s Jeep went through his right leg, severing an artery, his family said.
Doctors from Illinois Masonic Medical Center helped treat Basulto before he was transferred to Northwestern Hospital, where doctors worked for weeks to save his leg, Basulto said.
Doctors are confident Basulto will be able to keep his leg and transferred him to the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab so he could begin physical therapy three weeks ago, he said. He has additional surgeries planned as he continues to recover.
“I think the hardest part is behind me,” Basulto said. “It’s been a long, long, long road for me. But I’m happy where I’m at.”
Basulto, 48, is the father of 19-year-old triplets and a Marine Corps veteran who fought in Operation Desert Storm.
Basulto’s active in River Grove American Legion Post 335 and Central Leyden VFW Post 5979. He’s also a leader with Boy Scout Troop 690 in Elmwood Park, where his two sons are Eagle Scouts, said his sister-in-law, Francis Tayupanta-Kostelis.
After Basulto was hurt, VFW River Grove post 5979 Cmdr. Shawn Schroeder launched a GoFundMe to raise money for Basulto’s medical bills.
Tayupanta-Kostelis credits Basulto’s military background with saving his life after the crash. After he was pinned between the two cars, he had the presence of mind to use his belt as a tourniquet to slow the bleeding from his leg, she said.
“He saved his own life. I wouldn’t have thought of that. I would have just been screaming,” she said.
During Basulto’s surgeries and recovery, friends and family have been there to offer emotional support, he said. His father slept on the sofa in his hospital room so he could be next to him between surgeries, Basulto said.
“I’m grateful for how many people came out to support me. That’s what gave me the most amount of strength for a lot of this stuff,” Basulto said.
Physical therapy has been hard for Basulto — like “boot camp … all over again,” Tayupanta-Kostelis said. But he’s developed his upper body strength and can walk for up to 50 feet on one leg, since he can’t put his full weight on his right leg, she said.
Basulto still has a ways to go before he can walk the way he did before he was injured, he said. While he recovers at home, his focus is get strong enough to walk or stand without help, he said.
“I haven’t been able to do it 100 percent yet. But I’m going tackle my stairs. That’s something everyone takes for granted, walking up six or seven flights of stairs,” Basulto said. “It’s a pretty big challenge. But once I get to the top, I know I’ll be OK. I know I can make it. Then I’ll just sit there and enjoy the ambiance. I haven’t been home in so long.”
After the hit-and-run, police asked for the public’s help in tracking down the driver of the pickup truck, possibly a blue or gray Chevrolet Silverado Z71 with a hardtop. The driver was last seen headed west on Irving Park Road from Pulaski.
Officers are still searching for the driver, a police spokesperson said Thursday.
“There’s a couple [people] that asked me what I would do if I caught the driver,” Basulto said. “To be honest with you: nothing. It was an accident. The fact that they left? That’s the s—-y part.
“But I can’t dwell on that. I’m focusing on good stuff, positive stuff, and moving forward.”
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