The road to recovery has been long and is expected to continue, but Plymell resident Charlie Drussel, who sustained third-degree burns on Dec. 26, 2012, is improving little by little every day. His wife, Sherry Drussel, said he is fortunate to be alive.
"There was about three times we almost lost him," Sherry said.
Drussel was severely injured on that December day after a gas can he was holding was ignited by a wood burning stove. The gas can blew up and saturated Drussel's jeans, causing them to catch fire.
"He tried to get his jeans off and got them down to his ankles, but he couldn't get them off because of his boots, so it burned around his ankles really bad," she said.
Drussel was flown to Via Christi/St. Francis burn unit in Wichita, where doctors attempted to repair his badly damaged legs with skin grafts. Ultimately, doctors were forced to amputate both of Drussel's legs, just above the knee because the burned and dead tissue caused by the fire was producing a toxin called myoglobin that is extremely harmful to the kidneys.
"Kidneys clean toxins out of the body and when all the toxins go into the kidneys at that high of a level, it just shuts the kidneys down. His kidneys are not functioning properly yet, but they're starting to work naturally. He's still doing dialysis three times a week," Sherry said, adding that doctors expect a complete recovery where his kidneys are concerned.
She said that he also had two bouts of pneumonia, caused by the toxic smoke he inhaled while trying to extinguish the fire. He was on a ventilator for 45 days, but his lungs are almost completely clear now. However, the ventilator caused his throat muscles to deteriorate, so he is still unable to eat solid food.
"It is getting better, so we have high hopes that someday soon he'll have a strawberry shake — that's what he's been dreaming about, a strawberry shake," she said and laughed.
Drussel has been hospitalized at Via Christi-St. Francis since the accident and Sherry said he will begin physical therapy soon.
Since the accident, she said community support for both Charlie and their family has been overwhelming.
"The only reason he's here is because, A, the people who are praying and supporting us and B, the medical staff at this burn unit at Via Christi — they are absolutely amazing," Sherry said.
The hope, she said, is that Charlie will be able to use prosthetics, but because he will also have to use a wheelchair, friends and local businesses have chipped in to help renovate the Drussels' home, so that it is wheelchair accessible.
"We've got friends who have been working on our house for the past several days trying to get it ready for him, widening doorways, redoing his bathroom so he can get a wheelchair in there. They put a ramp in and they're even going to paint the house," she said. "People are just being phenomenal."
This Saturday, the Charlie's Angels Benefit Car Show and Auction is being held for Drussel on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Finney County Fairgrounds Livestock Pavilion. Appropriate, as Drussel owns a machine shop, where he builds high-performance race, fuel systems and irrigation engines.
During the benefit, there will be both an all-day silent auction and a live auction begins at 6 p.m.
Proceeds are going to the Charlie Drussel Benefit fund to help the family with medical bills and other expenses.
Wristbands are being sold for $3 and T-shirts are also being sold for $20.
"I was telling the nurses about the benefit and about the T-shirts and stuff, so all the nurses in the burn unit are buying T-shirts," Sherry said. "The hospital is going to let them have a Charlie's Angels Day and wear their Charlie's Angels T-shirts to work."
The benefit is being organized by Stacy Tancayo, Baker Boot Co. and Boyd and Tom Lear of Lear Farms, with the aid of members of the Pierceville Federated Church, friends, community members and local businesses.
Donations are also being accepted at Western State Bank and through a website, www.youcaring.com, where Drussel's page can be located by searching for his name.
For more information about the car show benefit for Drussel, visit the Charlie's Angels Benefit Car Show Facebook page.