By Shawn Chitnis


AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – The parents of a Firestone woman are grateful for the care she is receiving in Colorado two weeks after an explosion at a gas station in Cambodia burned nearly a third of her body. Abbey is getting treatment at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital.

(credit: Alexander Family)

“The roads were all closed so he tried to drive through the aisles of one of the outdoor markets,” Erin Alexander recalled from the UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital.

The family moved to Cambodia in January to teach various subjects. They vacationed in the country one Christmas and started planning their move a year in advance. Erin and her husband, Aaron, teach English online for companies based in China. Their daughter teaches kindergarten and preschool, and their son is a junior high math teacher.

(credit: Alexander Family)

“We love the country,” Mrs. Alexander said. “The people are amazing.”

Their son informed them that his sister was injured and they needed to rush to see her at a local clinic. She was rushed to the nearest medical center where they could put ointment on her burns but staff knew they had to send her to a hospital.

(credit: Alexander Family)

“Her clothes were hanging off her,” her mother remembered. “It almost looked like ripped pantyhose, she just had long ribbons of skin hanging off.”

But for them to even get to her was a challenge. Roads were closed and there were obstacle along the way. A friend let them borrow his driver so they could get there as quickly as possible. Eventually they had to finish the journey on foot. Once they were with their daughter, they were amazed she was alert and talking to them.

(credit: CBS)

“She was putting things on Snapchat,” Alexander said. “I was seriously like, girl you’re putting this on Snapchat?”

They were able to talk to her before her condition changed and she needed a ventilator. The drive to the hospital in the capital was six hours away. Their daughter explained what she remembered before she was injured.

(credit: Alexander Family)

“We smelled gas, we smelled smoke, and we rode past and it just exploded,” her mother shared from that conversation.

Her parents told CBS4 on Thursday they do not think she realized how serious her injuries were from the explosion. It happened at a gas station the Alexanders have been told is not licensed in that country. The family had an hour to pack before they made their way to the hospital.

(credit: Alexander Family)

Their daughter has burns to her face, both arms and legs, as well as her back. Most of those injuries are third degree burns. Once at the hospital they learned that they would need to either travel to the U.S. or Thailand for proper treatment of those burns. The U.S. Embassy helped them secure a flight to return to Denver.

“It was like road tripping in the back of someone’s minivan,” Mrs. Alexander said. “I had never been in a plane this small.”

(credit: Alexander Family)

The flight lasted 28 hours and required several stops before arriving in Colorado. There was no bathroom and along with two pilots, a doctor and nurse were on board with the patient and her mother.

“I just kept hoping she was staying calm,” she said.

Alexander is in critical condition with an ICU room at the UCHealth Burn and Frostbite Center. Doctors say it will take two months of care at the hospital before she can be released. But they are optimistic she can make a full recovery. For now, she remains on a ventilator and heavily sedated.

(credit: Alexander Family)

“We’re not sure if she truly understands where she is,” her mother said.

Her parents are trying to remind her that she is in Colorado and communicate with her as often as they can. The Alexanders also say they get more time with her at UCHealth then they did when she was in Cambodia because so much of the treatment there was focused on stabilizing her.

“It’s been a lot better for us that we’ve been able to spend more time with her,” her father said.

(credit: Alexander Family)

Her parents plans to return to Cambodia when their daughter’s condition improves. They have a home there and pets they could not bring to the U.S. They plan to travel back and forth as she recovers. It is unclear what their daughter will want but they understand either outcome, a wish to return or the desire to stay away. They say what happened over there should not be a reflection on that country. They say the people there have been so kind, her students even raised $1,200 for her medical expenses.

“This was an accident, this is something that can happen anywhere,” her mother said.

(credit: Alexander Family)

But the bills just to take care of her in Cambodia and transport her to the U.S. total around $230,000, which they do not have insurance to cover. The family has setup a GoFundMe to help with the cost. They believe she will overcome all of the challenges she may face in the months ahead.

“She’s just a very loving person, very outgoing and friendly,” her mother said. “I think that will help her in the long run.”

LINK: Abbey’s GoFundMe

Shawn Chitnis

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