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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

World Trade Center Victim Released from Hospital Today

Aired January 29, 2002 - 10:37   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Back to New York now. Elaine Duch has entered the room inside of a wheel chair, and on her head is another tribute to the many people who have helped out there -- the fire department of New York City. Let's listen now.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

DR. ROGER YURT, WEILL CORNELL BURN CENTER: Bob Dimbici (ph) who is the nurse -- the director of the nursing up in the burn center. Bob is over here. From our paramedic services, the director of the paramedic services, Jack Delaney (ph), and the director of our emergency room, who played a large role in early resuscitation of Elaine as well as the other patients, over here on my left.

We are proud as a team to have been able to put this together. There is over 150 people on the burn team that have contributed to the care of Miss Duch while she's been there, and I want to congratulate them for the work that they've done. She's had a lot of ups and downs. There's been periods of sepsis, there has been periods of shock. She's gone through several phases.

The first phase was the phrase of shock when she was rescued by Paul Adams, and then when she came to go through the early resuscitation, the shock from the burn injury, and then many episodes of sepsis after that.

Although we worked as a team, she had an attending surgeon who took care of her in particular, and I can tell you he was here even on those few days when not on call, he was here taking care of Miss Duch, and I would like to introduce Dr. Palmer Bessey to you -- Palmer.

DR. PALMER BESSEY, ATTENDING SURGEON: Good morning. This is far happier, beautiful Tuesday in New York than the first Tuesday when we met Miss Duch.

She came to us from Saint Vincent's, where she had been evacuated, and she arrived upstairs after a period of time in the emergency department, she arrived up in our burn unit about 6:00 p.m. that day. She was critically ill, on the ventilator, and other many forms of life support. She had burns over 77 percent of her body, and she also had a severe injury of her lungs. Eventually, we were able to start to treat the extensive burns.

She had her first operation on September 18th, and her 7th, and last, operation on December 11th. She was on the ventilator all that time. Many bouts of pneumonia and bacteria in her bloodstream, but she weathered all that, and about 12 days ago, finally came off the ventilator and was able to start to talk.

For us, that was a special day, because that was the first time we started to get to know her. And what a delightful person she is. And since she's the star of the show, I think I need to introduce her -- Elaine Duch.

Here you go can you say hi, again.

ELAINE DUCH: Hi, everyone. A lot of flashes going off.

BESSEY: Well, the -- in a way, as we've talked about, almost the hardest part of this recovery is coming up, because you are going to need to be gaining your strength back, and getting your mobility back. And this is a big day -- you sort of graduate to do that. Are you all set for that?

DUCH: I'm all set for that. After spending all the time in the hospital, I'm ready to move on.

BESSEY: Great.

DUCH: I want to get back to the way I was.

BESSEY: Good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you can tell, Elaine does have still some hoarseness, and it's a little bit difficult for her to talk. She has agreed to answer a few questions here in the group if there are any questions.

QUESTION: Can you talk about meeting Mr. Adams again?

DUCH: After I got out of the Trade Center, and before anyone came over, Paul Adams had come over to help me. And then I was put on the stretcher and then Paul came to the -- into the ambulance and he came to the hospital with me.

QUESTION: Miss Duch, what do you remember about getting down from the 88th floor?

DUCH: Well, I got hurt on the 88th floor. And I remember that they got an elevator and we went down to the 44th floor, and then from there we walked all the way down. And -- see, I got hurt on 88th, but I did manage to get out of the building.

QUESTION: Of the first tower?

DUCH: Yes, Tower One.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DUCH: There was a fire, so I don't know whether I was on fire or if it was the heat. And my watch snapped off, and my glasses shattered.

QUESTION: We heard from other people who came down that the stairways were very crowded.

DUCH: Yes, they had to move out of the way, because they said there is a hurt person, move, make room, and they went to the side so I could go down.

QUESTION: Was someone helping you?

DUCH: Yes. There were a couple of people. Jerry Gabe (ph) was one of them helping me go down. I can't remember who the other person was.

QUESTION: When you got admitted (ph) to the burn unit, how long was it before you realized kind of where you were, and what had happened, and really become aware?

DUCH: I guess about -- I guess about a month ago when I started -- was able to understand and realize where I was.

QUESTION: Did you get a chance at that point to reflect on your circumstances, lucky, unlucky, whatever?

DUCH: Well, I thank God that I'm here today, because when I got hurt on 88, I said, God, save me. And he did.

QUESTION: Do you remember the explosion, Miss Duch?

DUCH: Yes. There was like fire. I was in the hallway in my office, and then all of a sudden, there was like a fire. And if I was a few feet further in, I would have been probably blown up, or if I was a few feet back, I would have been okay.

QUESTION: At what point did you meet Mr. Adams? When did you see him, it would have been outside or inside?

DUCH: Yes, when I was outside the building.

QUESTION: What did he do?

PAUL ADAMS, EMT: That was also my other partner, who also couldn't be here today, Moose Diaz (ph). He's an EMT also. We just turned around. We grabbed her, put her on the stretcher, ran to patient care. And then we got out of the scene before the first collapse. Then me and my partner went back in, and we were involved in the first collapse.

QUESTION: Paul, is this the first time you two have met since that day?

ADAMS: No. I've been coming every Sunday since that day and I told her I would be here until the day she gets out of her.

QUESTION: Miss Duch, how have you been keeping up your spirits all this time since you realized what your situation was? DUCH: Well, I have my ups and downs, but I think of that I wanted to get better, and I push very hard to get better.

QUESTION: Can you share us your hopes and plans.

DUCH: I want to -- want to just go back to the way I was. As far as plans, I don't know what I plan on doing. Maybe take a nice long vacation. Oh, yeah. Definitely Atlantic City. Paul is going to take me.

QUESTION: He thinks you have very good luck, then.

DUCH: Yes, definitely. Because I'm a survivor. I have a strong will.

QUESTION: Who was the first person that you saw and spoke to after you become conscious?

DUCH: I don't remember. I know some of the nurses like Andrew here filled me in on what happened, and Paul over there told me about the people -- how many people died on that terrible day. I didn't realize how bad it was until, like, Paul told me.

QUESTION: You truly are a miracle here, you know.

DUCH: I know. And I'm glad I'm still here.

QUESTION: The port authority was hit hard that day, a lot of people were affected. Have been people been able to come in and see you --

DUCH: Well, I didn't want visitors, only my immediate family, because I was on the ventilator. And then I -- I wasn't able to really talk. So I didn't want -- I didn't want people to come to see me. Just my family.

QUESTION: Do you think it's a miracle you're alive? What got you through this, do you think?

DUCH: A strong will. I didn't want to die. God saved me. Like I said, if I was few feet further in, I would have been blown up.

QUESTION: Did you know when that fire happened what had happened, the plane had crashed into the building?

DUCH: No, I had no idea. It wasn't until -- it would have been about a month ago when I woke up that someone told me that it was a plane that hit -- I had no idea.

QUESTION: Now that you are aware that it was that, and it was suicide bombers who were bent on creating all of this destruction, what are your feelings about that?

DUCH: Well, I never thought that they would attack the Trade Center a second time, because we were attacked in '93.

QUESTION: You were there in '93, Miss Duch?

DUCH: Yes. Yes, I was.

QUESTION: What do you remember from that experience?

DUCH: I know the people that got killed in that incident. And that was -- that was bad enough. But this -- I can't believe the tower is all gone.

QUESTION: How do you feel about all the doctors and physicians that took care of you during your ordeal?

DUCH: Oh, I think they're wonderful. The doctors gave me excellent care. All the nurses, the aides, I got to know all of them. They took very, very good care of me.

QUESTION: Will you miss them when you go home?

DUCH: I will miss them, because I know they'll miss me too.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Paul, how has it been for you seeing her progression, her getting better each week?

ADAMS: She's made a complete turnaround the last three weeks, I couldn't believe it. You know, there was one -- one Sunday I missed, and then I went back the following Sunday, and she was sitting in a chair, off the respirator, talking like, hi Paul, how are you doing, how am I feeling, my jaw just hit the floor. I couldn't believe it. She's a big inspiration.

QUESTION: How did you feel when you saw that, knowing that you're responsible, in part, for her being here?

ADAMS: There is no -- there is no words to really describe that. Just awesome.

QUESTION: What does her life, and her existence here today, what does she mean to you, Paul? Why do you go every Sunday.

ADAMS: Family, definitely family, she means the world to me. Her and her family, sisters, it has been both -- therapy for both of us. We are going to move on from now.

QUESTION: You went through a lot on that day as well, to see her alive must...

ADAMS: Yeah. Yeah. Just awesome.

QUESTION: How have you been getting through this ordeal? I mean, you are obviously in good health, but how are you coping with everything you saw that day?

ADAMS: You know, my family, you know, visiting Elaine, also. That's the way I get through this. I'm just looking to move on. QUESTION: Paul, what was the plan? How were you and your team going about trying to help people that were coming out of the building? What was the setup for you there?

ADAMS: Well, they had set up triage in front of the millennium plaza at first, when we first pulled up, the second plane had just hit. And Elaine just came walking over with her friend, and I couldn't believe it. That's when we just grabbed her.

QUESTION: She was still walking?

ADAMS: She was still walking, talking, and then put her --

QUESTION: You could tell that she was severely burned, or how did she...

ADAMS: Yeah.

QUESTION: ... or what did she look like?

ADAMS: You could tell that she was severely burned. At the time, pretty bad. Pretty bad. You know, we just put her on the stretcher, did patient care. A priest came up. Gave her -- asked if she minded to give her last rites. He did that. And then we shot her out of there. Me and my partner, Moose (ph), we got her out of there, and went to Saint Vincent's, and then we went back in.

QUESTION: Paul, I'm sure in your career, you've handled (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I am sure you don't visit them every Sunday. What is it about you, why do you have to come?

ADAMS: Elaine is definitely special. You know, she's --

BESSEY: I think, one in a million. I think we're going to need to stop here and give Elaine a chance to get together so she can head back. You did mention the Port Authority, and they are here as well today, and they are going to be the ones, I think, that are providing transportation for her. Thank you very much.

HEMMER: A living and breathing reminder of the absolute devastation that hit New York City back on September 11th. Elaine Duch, 49 years old, leaving the burns institute in Manhattan today, and what a story. She said, "I'm a survivor, I am strong willed, I did not want to die." She said it was one month before she was informed and told what happened to the World Trade Center Towers. She says, "I want to go back to the way I was, I said, God save me, and he did."

Apparently, Elaine was burned on the 88th floor, took the elevator down to the 44th floor, then the stairs the rest of the way down and out in Lower Manhattan.

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