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Singer Needs Surgery For Crash Injury

March 22, 1990

NEW YORK (AP) _ Singer Gloria Estefan faces surgery Thursday and will need three to six months of recovery for two broken vertebrae suffered when her bus was rammed by a truck, doctors said Wednesday.

The 32-year-old star of the Latin-pop Miami Sound Machine, known for her energetic dancing on stage, had some numbness and weakness in her legs, and a slim possibility of paralysis remained, surgeons said.

Two vertebrae just above the waist were fractured and dislocated, a serious spinal injury, said Dr. Michael Neuwirth, the orthopedic surgeon who is to perform the operation at the Orthopedic Institute Hospital for Joint Diseases.

The operation is needed to realign the vertebrae, two of the 33 bones of the spinal column, and fuse the spine so it won’t move and damage the spinal cord, according to Dr. Harry Schmaltz of the Community Medical Center in Scranton, Pa.

Miss Estefan was taken by helicopter Wednesday afternoon from the medical center to the Orthopedic Institute.

Doctors at the Orthopedic Institute said at a news conference that two metal rods would be inserted into the fractured vertebrae in the operation.

″Her prognosis is excellent for a return to normal function,″ Neuwirth said.

″She’s not going to do much in the way of entertaining for three to six months,″ Schmaltz said in Scranton. ″It’s a very serious injury and it’s going to keep her out of commission for quite a while.″

Schmaltz said the singer will have to wear a device to restrict her movement during recovery.

″She’s in a lot of pain, but her spirits are up,″ said Miss Estefan’s sister, Becky Fajardo.″She’s looking forward to the operation as soon as she’s feeling better. It’s been tough on the family. But we’re doing pretty well.″

Miss Estefan and the group were headed to Syracuse, N.Y., for a Tuesday night concert. The accident occurred about noon on westbound Interstate 380 near Tobyhanna in the Pocono Mountains in eastern Pennsylvania.

Estefan was thrown from a couch where she was sleeping when a truck hit the bus, which was stopped because of a jackknifed tractor-trailer. The driver of the truck that struck the bus was cited for driving at an unsafe speed.

Estefan’s husband, Emilio, 37, was treated for head and hand injuries and their 9-year-old son, Nayab, broke his collarbone. Both were released.

Miss Estefan’s personal assistant, Barbara Arencibia, 25, remained in the Scranton hospital Wednesday with a back injury, and was listed in stable condition.

Before she was transferred to New York, fans flooded the hospital switchboard and sent flowers and notes to the Cuban-born singer. Elton John sent flowers, and the well-wishers who called included Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, John Denver, Ryan O’Neal and Frankie Avalon, associates said.

President Bush, who met the singer Monday to discuss her anti-drug work, had talked to the singer twice since she arrived at the hospital.

Miss Estefan was nominated in February for best pop vocal performance by a female for the single ″Don’t Wanna Lose You″ in the Grammy awards.

Her new album, ″Cuts Both Ways,″ a collection of dance songs and ballads, was 26th on the Cashbox magazine pop chart last week.

Miss Estefan and Miami Sound Machine have attracted listeners worldwide with the sounds of salsa, samba and conga for more than a decade. Their hits include ″Rhythm Is Gonna Get You″ and ″Anything for You.″