“We truly are like a family”
UES restaurant raising money for medical costs of manager hurt in car crash
Tragedy struck an Upper East Side restaurant on New Year’s Eve weekend when its general manager was injured in a severe car accident. Today, the owner of the eatery is raising money to offset the manager’s medical costs.
John Philips, the owner of Mansion Restaurant on York Avenue and East 86th Street, created a GoFundMe campaign for John Drakopoulos, his friend and longtime general manager. Drakopoulos, 49, of Brooklyn, has been with the diner for 15 years.
“John is very close to my family as I am his,” Philips said. “John helped me build the restaurant to where it is. When we are here, we truly are like a family.”
On Dec. 30, Drakopoulos was on his way to work early in the morning. According to Philips, Drakopoulos took an off-ramp where there was an underpass from the Long Island Expressway to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and as he was exiting lost control of his car.
Drakopoulos hit a short embankment, then a light post. The car flipped over, the roof caved in on his head and he slid about 150 feet while trapped in the car.
“He’s the most injured person I’ve ever seen,” Philips said.
Drakopoulos is in an induced coma, with a traumatic brain injury. Among other problems, he suffered a fractured skull, severely injured his right eye and right eardrum, smashed bones behind his sinuses, fractured three vertebrae and had glass fragments near his brain.
Philips, who visits every day, explained that Drakopoulos has not been taken out of the coma because the brain needs time to heal. Doctors have confirmed that his spinal cord is intact and also performed facial reconstruction surgery.
The hope is that they can take him out of the coma by the end of the month.
“When you have traumatic brain injury you have to be as incapacitated as possible,” Philips said.
An emotional Philips noted that Drakopoulos’ injury is not just affecting the diner. His wife, Magdalena, is finishing dental hygienist school soon and his son Jacob is 5 years old. With the two of them in mind, along with Drakopoulos’ rising medical bills, Philips knew how important it was to start a GoFundMe for his friend. As this paper went to press, the campaign had raised $39,313.
“John made some serious sacrifices so his wife could go back to school to be a dental hygienist,” Philips said. “He’s the breadwinner of the family.”
Since the accident, Philips said, the outpouring of love for Drakopoulos has been tremendous. From the NYPD to customers, people have asked how he is doing and dropped off get-well cards.
Philips reminisced about his first impressions of his friend. While the restaurant has been there since 1945, it was Drakopoulos and a few others who helped revitalize it 15 years ago.
Philips said Drakopoulos knows all of the customers on a first-name basis, greets everyone with a smile and always crack jokes with the staff. Additionally, he is godfather to Philips’ son Max.
“John has been an integral part of this rebirth of Mansion,” Philips emphasized. “It’s kind of beyond sad. The system has been irreparably changed in a way. We’re trying to fill the gaps. The customers definitely feel it.”
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