Union County man severely burned in car crash hopes to drive again
A young man pulled from a fiery car crash in Hillside in July hopes the road to recovery leads him back behind the wheel.
Joseph DiMeo, 20, was badly burned when he lost control of his Dodge Challenger on Route 22. The car hit a curb and then a utility pole. He was rescued from the burning vehicle before it exploded.
DiMeo suffered third-degree burns over 75 percent of his body. After four months in the intensive care unit at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, he was transferred to a rehab facility in Tinton Falls. He was discharged recently and is at his family's home in Clark. DiMeo is taken to frequent occupational and physical therapy appointments at Saint Barnabas.
His family has received some help from a GoFundMe campaign set up to help with a "huge pile of medical bills" as DiMeo's treatment continues.
Surgeries to reconstruct his nose and restore full vision by separating his fused eyelids are considered cosmetic, so insurance will not cover them, his mother, Rose DiMeo, said. An appointment is set with a plastic surgeon on Friday.
DiMeo lost his left ear an the tips of his fingers were amputated. His mother said one thing he'd like to have back are eyebrows.
Rose DiMeo said she's now acting as Joseph's at-home nurse, giving him his daily medications and getting him to his appointments. Also helping is his sister, 19-year-old Priscilla, in between working two jobs.
Despite the accident and his extensive injuries, DiMeo is in great spirits, said his mother. He went from being "Joey Whispers" in the months after the crash, to "Joey Chatters," just like his dad.
Now that he's home, a few meetings are in the works. One will be with his "angel," as Rose calls R&B singer Ted Wizard Mills, formerly of the group Blue Magic. The good Samaritan was first to race to the crash and pull Joseph out.
There's also plans to connect DiMeo with at least one of the survivors of the Seton Hall University dorm fire in 2000.
Among Joseph's long-term goals is being able to drive again. He's even got a new dream car picked out, a Dodge Challenger Hellcat.
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