Dana Truitt Back In OC, Facing Two-Year Recovery - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Dana Truitt Back In OC, Facing Two-Year Recovery

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OCEAN CITY, Md. – Dana Truitt is finally home.

She's the only surviving burn victim from the fire at Saint Paul's By The Sea Episcopal Church in Ocean City, finally coming back after more than a month.

WMDT sat down with Dana for an interview for the first time since her return. She's in good spirits and ready to get better.

"I'm going to keep fighting for the day that I can be most healthy again," says Truitt.

However, that day may still be two years away, with months of appointments and therapy ahead of her. She says that doctors told her she probably would not be able to return to her work at the Buckingham Hotel for at least two years as well.

Now, she and her fiancée spend their mornings tending to her third-degree burns.

"He has to replace my bandages and throw them away, he'll wipe my face like the hospital did with a warm rag and soap, and make sure there is no smell to it," says Truitt. "If there is a smell I have to be rushed to the hospital. It's a process we go through every day."

After fighting for her life, pushing through two face surgeries and a back surgery for skin grafts, Truitt says she is up for the challenge.

"I asked the doctors, I was like can you just be honest with me, am I or am I not going to make it right now, and then they said we cannot be honest with you right now Ms. Truitt," she says. "I have a long road ahead of me but I'm going to do it."

Yet the physical recovery may be just part of what Dana has to overcome. She says the nightmares of John Sterner, the Shepherd's Crook regular, dousing himself in gasoline and setting himself on fire before entering the church, have subsided. However, the events of that day are still very fresh in her mind.

"I remember the whole thing," says Truitt. "I remember getting up that morning, and going down there. I had just walked in, spoke to everybody, went in the back, hung up the clothes that were dropped off the day before, hung them up, walked up back front, started putting our canned goods up, and then at 9:23, that's when he busted through the door."

What happened next shocked Truitt. She says she never imagined anyone ever doing something like it.

"He came in, had me pinned that I couldn't get out, grabbed my arm, told me I wasn't going anywhere," says Truitt. "That's why my arm is burnt so badly, because I was trying to get it away from him. I knocked him over and got outside and that's when I dropped to the ground and rolled, and that's why my side of my face is torn up so bad because I had on glasses, and when I pulled them off, they sort of melted to my face, and I tore off a lot of skin."

Now, Truitt has to face the hurdle of thousands of dollars in medical bills, between her hospital stay, therapy, and medication, but the Ocean City community is not letting her do it alone.

Seacrets is holding a fundraiser from 5:00 to 9:00 PM on Friday, January 10th, featuring a silent auction, drinks, raffle, and a lite dinner. Dana's employers and owners of the Buckingham Hotel, Spiro and Marianne Buas, spearheaded the event, and more than 50 businesses in Ocean City and surrounding cities have donated money and food to make it possible.

"It all around was just really heartbreaking, really tragic and sad," says Eileen Taglienti, Marketing and Advertising Manager for the Original Greene Turtle, who is helping hand out tickets for the event "It was definitely something everyone pulls together for and in this town you can count on that."

Truitt says just her ten minute stay at PRMC is $2,000, and she could not begin to afford her month's stay at Johns Hopkins Bayview Burn Center.

"It would take me years and years and years just to pay this one hospital bill off," says Truitt. "If it weren't for them I don't know how I'd do it, the community has come together to help, people that don't even know me have donated and wanted to help and support."

Both Truitt and her fiancée Charles Maddox plan to attend Friday's fundraiser. They were supposed to get married on Thanksgiving, but because of the tragic event, they are now planning to wed within the next few weeks. She was very thankful to receive her engagement ring before leaving Johns Hopkins, something she assumed was destroyed in the fire.

Truitt says she plans to return to Shepherd's Crook at some point in the future, but her main goal right now is to improve her health.

"Right now, I come first, I'm going to do Dana first. I will keep on being a fighter."

Tickets for the Dana Truitt Fundraiser are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. For more information, call Marianne Buas at 443-497-0524 or Jessica Lynch at 410-213-9556.

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