Comedian’s Recovery Shines Light on Specialty of Rehabilitation Nursing
Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan on Friday presented the “Tracy Morgan Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation Nursing” to a Hackensack Meridian Health JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute nurse who has dedicated her 30-year-career to working with brain-injured patients.
Morgan presented the third “Tracy Morgan Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation Nursing” to Gina Domingo, RN, CRRN. Domingo works on the Brain Trauma Unit at JFK Johnson, where she began in 1990.
“I’m so honored to receive this award,” Domingo said. “Working with patients who have brain injuries is challenging. But when you can contribute to someone’s recovery, it’s just so rewarding.”
Domingo was among the nurses who cared for Morgan after the comedian was seriously injured and in a coma following a 2014 accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. He received his brain injury rehabilitation at the JFK Johnson Brain Trauma Unit. Since Morgan’s inspiring recovery, he has returned to comedy as well as to producing and acting. He has generously shared his story of recovery on the national stage, highlighting the work of the professionals dedicated to patients with brain injuries.
“Every day our team members are on the frontlines saving lives and getting patients through the most difficult of circumstances. I am so proud of our health care professionals and am humbled by the work they do, ” said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, CEO, Hackensack Meridian Health. “Congratulations to Gina, who is so deserving of this award. On behalf of Hackensack Meridian Health, I extend a heartfelt thanks to Tracy Morgan for taking the time to recognize the extraordinary care provided by JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute.”
Morgan presented the award to Domingo after his performance at the Hackensack Meridian Health Theater at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank on Friday. She is the third rehabilitation nurse to receive the Tracy Morgan Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation Nursing. The comedian hugged Domingo and thanked the nurses, therapists and physicians gathered on the stage.
“You all took care of me. I was so angry and scared,” Morgan said. “You told me everything was going to be all right.” He pointed out Brian Greenwald, M.D., who is director of the Brain Trauma Unit and was Morgan’s physician.
Greenwald said Morgan’s recovery continues to inspire patients and their families. “To see Tracy’s talents on stage is inspiring. He’s accomplishing what he wants in life … that’s what we want for all of our patients,” Dr. Greenwald said.
Morgan’s recovery has inspired others with brain injuries and the comedian said he welcomed that role. “That’s why He spared me. That’s everything. That means everything to me,” he said. He was so overcome when asked how he felt to honor Domingo and her 30-years of service to people with brain injuries that he needed to step away. He returned to hug Domingo and said, “I love all of you.”
The sincerity of Morgan’s meeting with JFK Johnson health care professionals was in contrast to his raw and hilarious stand-up persona. Morgan has mined his accident and the subsequent financial settlement for comedy. During his performance, he joked that his wife was spending all his settlement money and demanded he get his “ ‘expletive’ off the couch and get down to the road and look for another truck.”
Morgan starred for seven seasons on NBC’s Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning “30 Rock.” He appeared opposite Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin as “Tracy Jordan,” the unpredictable star of a hit variety show. 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. His stand-up comedy shows are seen around the nation.
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.
“We created this award to thank Tracy for the inspiration he continues to provide to our patients and for the light he shines on the skill, compassion and specialized training of rehabilitation nurses,” Dr. Cuccurullo said.
Rehabilitation nurses possess the specialized skills to help patients with disabilities, chronic illness or injuries reach their maximum level of function. They design and implement strategies that are based on scientific nursing theory to promote physical, psychological, social, and spiritual health.
Domingo, who lives in Woodbridge, graduated from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, The Philippines. She said she appreciated seeing Morgan make full use of his talents as a comedian on the stage at the Count Basie.
“Often, a patient will return to visit and it’s always exciting and memorable to see them living the life they want and doing all they can,” she said. “So to see Tracy on stage … making everyone laugh. To see that kind of recovery in any of our patients is what motivates us every day.”