Comedian Tracy Morgan Honors Nurse at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute Center for Brain Injuries   
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Comedian Tracy Morgan Honors Nurse at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute Center for Brain Injuries

What You Need To Know

  • Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan, continuing his support for Hackensack Meridian JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute, on Friday presented the annual “Tracy Morgan Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation Nursing” to a health care professional dedicated to patients with brain injuries. 
  • After his performance at the Bergen County Performing Arts Center in Englewood, Morgan gave the 2023 award to Elba Ojeda, RN, CRRN, BSN, a nurse who has worked at the JFK Johnson Center for Brain Injuries for 18 years. He called Ojeda and other JFK Johnson nurses, physicians, and therapists up to the stage.

“This is my family right here,” Morgan told audience members, nearly all who remained in their seats. “When I was in a coma, these are the people who were there.”

Morgan handed the award to Ojeda and hugged her as the packed audience cheered. “This is empathy,” Morgan told Ojeda and the other health care professionals on stage. “These are people who put their own lives aside and help others who are suffering.”

Sara Cuccurullo, M.D., Medical Director of the JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute, thanked Morgan for continuing to honor rehabilitation nurses dedicated to supporting patients with brain injuries.

“And thank you for inspiring our patients every day by sharing your own journey to recovery,” Dr. Cuccurullo said. She said Ojeda exemplifies the best in rehabilitation nursing and is skilled, experienced, and dedicated to her patients and their families.

In 2014, Morgan was in a coma after a serious vehicle accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. He was treated at the JFK Johnson Center for Brain Injuries and frequently shares his experiences to thank the health care professionals who enabled his recovery. Morgan said he also shares his story to inspire others with brain injuries. 

“I think there was a reason my life was saved,” he said. Morgan said after his accident he had to learn to stand, sit, walk, and talk again.

Morgan starred for seven seasons on NBC’s Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning “30 Rock.” He also was a cast member for seven seasons on Saturday Night Live. He starred in and produced the TBS comedy, that Last O.G.

“This award is such an honor,” Ojeda said. “I love being supportive to my patients and educating their families. And to see people come back to us months, maybe a year, later and they are 100 percent better. It is ultra-gratifying.”

She is a graduate of the Muhlenberg Hospital School of Nursing in Plainfield, New Jersey.

Ojeda said she credits her faith for giving her strength to continue in her challenging work with brain injury patients. “You need immense patience. Sometimes I will say prayers, ‘Our Fathers’ or ‘Hail Marys’ as I wait for a patient to complete a task.”

Also on stage was Brian Greenwald, M.D., Medical Director of the JFK Johnson Center for Brain Injuries. He directed Morgan’s care and treatment during his rehabilitation.

“It’s inspiring for all of us to see Tracy continuing to succeed as a producer, actor, and comedian … He is accomplishing everything he wants to do in his life. That’s what we want for all our patients,” Dr. Greenwald said.

JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the nation’s best rehabilitation hospitals five years in a row. Next year, JFK Johnson will celebrate 50 years of service to the community while also advancing the field of rehabilitation medicine through research and innovation.

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