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Fmr. burn victim offers hope to San Bruno patients

September 16, 2010 5:57:39 PM PDT
A seriously burned victim of an explosion involving PG&E was speaking out Thursday. Lisa Nash was not injured in the San Bruno explosion; she was knocked off her feet by a blast in an underground PG&E vault in August 2005.

She was walking to work in San Francisco's Financial District when there was an explosion in an underground PG&E vault at Post and Kearney streets. The force of the blast lifted a manhole cover and rocked buildings blocks away.

Nash was sent to the burn unit at St. Francis Memorial Hospital. That is also where four victims from the San Bruno Fire are being treated.

Nash returned Thursday to talk about her ordeal and recovery.

Nash hopes her story brings hope to the San Bruno survivors and their families. She says she spent two months in the hospital being treated for burns over 40 percent of her body.

"It wasn't just burns, my lungs had been affected, my skin; I was vulnerable to all sorts of infections," Nash said.

Then there were two years of rehabilitation, learning to walk again and talk again because her lungs were severely damaged. Nash says the first thing she did when she was able was go "stomp on that manhole cover" where she was injured.

Nash says the San Bruno victims will need counseling and support from friends and family to get through the long road to recovery. She is willing to visit and talk with them when they are ready, just as other burn patients did for her. She calls the explosion "a defining moment" in her life, but says she has healed physically and emotionally.

"Former burn patients came and talked to me and told me, 'Yep, you might be thinking it's a bad day, but you'll come back to normal,'" Nash said.

Dr. Clyde Ikeda is Medical Director of the burn unit. He says the patients they are caring for are in "the acute" stage of burn care. This stage lasts from Day 4 to 2 months. It generally includes removing damaged skin and tissue and replacing it with grafts from the patient's own skin, or if necessary, using cadaver skin or skin from pigs.

"It's a very uncomfortable scar for awhile; it takes six months, a year, two years to feel like normal skin and imagine the emotional impact that goes along with it," he said.

Ikeda says doctors from all over the West Coast have called with offers to assist.

CPUC sets up number to reported gas smell

The California Public Utilities Commission has established a toll-free number and e-mail address for anyone who noticed the smell. People can call (800) 789-0550 or send an e-mail SBFire@cpuc.ca.gov if they smelled the gas.

The NTSB has also set up a tip line for their investigation. They are interested in reports of a natural gas order or any plants dying. You can e-mail information or amature video related to this case to: sanbruno@ntsb.gov

ABC7 Continuing Coverage:
AUDIO: Fire dispatch recordings of San Bruno explosion
RAW VIDEO: Explosion captured on gas station video
RAW VIDEO: Reactions to explosion captured on video
RAW VIDEO: NTSB Monday afternoon update
Some San Bruno residents allowed to return
RAW VIDEO: NTSB Sunday afternoon update
RAW SKY7 VIDEO: Friday morning over San Bruno
VIDEO: Photographer's first-hand account of devastation
VIDEO: Eyewitness account
PHOTOS: San Bruno explosion
VIDEO: "I thought - this is judgment day"
VIDEO: Fire consumes neighborhood
VIDEO: Photographer captures images moments after blast

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