Tomyamaguchi’s Weblog

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San Bruno Burn Victims

The explosion of a natural gas pipeline and resulting fire in San Bruno is the worst disaster to hit the San Francisco Bay Area since the Berkeley/Oakland hills fire 19 years ago. The stories of those who perished have been especially heartbreaking. One reported by the San Francisco Chronicle was of a 20 year old woman who was visiting her boyfriend’s house to watch the football game on TV. After the explosion, the 19 year old man tried desperately to save his girlfriend’s life, but he had to flee in order to save his. He is now in a hospital with severe burns over much of his body.

He is one of four victims at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital with extensive third degree burns. My heart goes out to these burn victims, having personal experience with the inside of a hospital burn unit. It was when my now adult daughter was just a few years old that she was burned after pulling a tray of two hot cups of coffee onto herself. Ironically, we were in a hospital when it happened. My then wife and I were accompanying my mother-in-law on a routine visit to the veterans’ hospital in San Diego and had stopped at the cafeteria for refreshments. After pulling the tray on top of herself, scalding her chin, chest, and one arm, the hospital staff immediately rushed to cover her with ice. She was transferred to University Hospital where she had been born just a few years before. That hospital has a state-of-the-art burn unit.

Immediately, my ex and I felt tremendous guilt. We had to be really lousy parents for letting such horrible negligence cause injury to the one person who mattered to us the most. Then, at the hospital, we began to appreciate how fortunate we really were. Our daughter received skin grafts to the most severely burned areas of her arm and chest. Her injuries were mild compared to most of the other patients on the ward. They included small children, some who had lost fingers and toes. They all suffered from terrible accidents, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, like the victims of the San Bruno natural gas explosion.

In the face of all this suffering, I also found inspiration and hope. I discovered that great advances had been made in the medical treatment of third degree burns. I was in awe of the women and men who dedicated their lives to healing the lives of others. That these victims are still alive, days after the explosion, is a tribute to the knowledge gained at places like University Hospital in San Diego. For those who leave the hospital, recovery will be slow and long. We all wish them a full recovery. If there is any comfort to be gained, it is that medical knowledge will be increased with their treatment and many more lives will be saved in the future.

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September 12, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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