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Former Hub city councilor Arroyo hit by car on street in Venezuela

Email|Print| Text size + By Stephanie Ebbert
Globe Staff / February 15, 2008

Felix D. Arroyo, a former City Council member, is recovering from broken ribs and a punctured lung he suffered when he was struck by a car while crossing a street last month in Venezuela.

Arroyo, 59, was visiting the family of his Venezuelan-born fiancée, Selene Acosta, who is helping him recover from his injuries as he remains in the country, unable to fly home to Boston.

"I cannot be more lucky, not only with her, but with my children," Arroyo said by phone. "Happy Valentine's for them and for Selene."

His son, Felix G., said friends and relatives in the Boston area were shaken to learn of the accident. Arroyo was the first Latino to serve on the City Council, but lost his reelection bid in November. He was to be honored this week at the Commonwealth Seminar, a program designed to promote diversity at the State House.

"It's one thing to not have Felix Arroyo as a member of the City Council, but it's a completely different thing for his family and friends to not have him with us any longer," said the younger Arroyo. "It's times like these you really realize what's important."

The accident occurred Jan. 28 in the community of Santo Domingo as Arroyo tried to cross a street to check out a panoramic view.

"I looked both sides, but because it's a curvy street, I should have looked twice both sides," he said. "The next thing I know, everything went like a brilliant light, and then I felt I was on the floor."

The driver of the car took Arroyo to a clinic, where he got seven stitches in his head, he said. He had pain in his side, but an X-ray did not reveal any broken ribs. The next day he was released and traveled with his fiancée to a town where her brother lives.

But soon, his face began to swell "like a balloon," he said. The couple raced to another clinic where doctors determined that a lung had been punctured and was leaking air into his body.

Arroyo's doctor in Venezuela could not be reached yesterday. But Dr. Dana Stearns, an emergency medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, confirmed that the swelling Arroyo described can result from a punctured lung.

"When you puncture your lung, gas can begin to leak from the lung into this space, and it's trapped. It can go in, but it can't come out," Stearns said. "Over time, that increases pressure and can produce a gradual collapse of the lung itself."

Arroyo had to undergo surgery to drain blood from his lung and was hospitalized for eight days. He is convalescing in Acosta's apartment in Puerto La Cruz, a tourist city and port on the coast of Venezuela.

Though he was scheduled to return to Boston Feb. 4, in time for the presidential primary election, his doctor advised against it for fear that the air pressure at high altitude could collapse his lung.

"I survived the car," he said. "I want to survive the airplane, as well."

Felix Arroyo is in Puerto La Cruz, a tourist city on the coast of Venezuela, until his doctor says it is OK to fly back to Boston.

'I cannot be more lucky'

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