Hannah Storm returned to ESPN this month after suffering burns December 11
Storm says she was in a hurry and distracted when the grill accident occurred
She said the pain and trauma is "there for a long time"
Storm says she's determined to slow down and "proceed with caution"
Editor’s Note: For more on Hannah Storm, don’t miss “Sanjay Gupta, MD” on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday and 7:30 a.m. ET Sunday.
ESPN “SportsCenter” host Hannah Storm suffered severe burns as the result of a propane grill accident at her Connecticut home on December 11. CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta spoke with her recently. Here is an edited version of that interview.
CNN: Do you do feel lucky?
Hannah Storm: I feel very blessed. I was the best person off in that burn unit. What many or so many suffer from is so exponentially worse than I could ever imagine. I’m so grateful to be able to do my job, to sit here and to talk to you and to be able to carry on. So the only reason that I will have wanted to share what I have wanted is because I don’t want it to happen to anybody else, and I also want people to you know understand a little bit about what burn victims go through. The pain is there for a long time; the trauma is there for a long time. I think it’s not always obvious.
CNN: When the doctor came in and finally told you all the burns and the types of things that had happened, do you remember how they described to you what had happened?
They said, “You have first-degree burns on your hand and your neck.” The neck, you could actually see the flame – it was like a flame shape, going up the neck.
CNN: What was the treatment at that time, initially?
Storm: I had to have a silver patch. It was a huge silver patch, so I was all … patched up from like here to here. My hands were bandaged. But the body is … incredible. You know, what it can do. I don’t think people realize how exhausting it is when – it’s that pervasive feeling of exhaustion when you’re recovering from burns. It’s something that’s still really surprising to me, because I still feel that way. You’re just so incredibly tired, and then you’re just … you are so sore and then even now … my chest is hot and my hands … you feel that heat, and you feel the pins-and-needles feeling, you know, and you feel sensitive. You almost still feel it. It’s really strange.
CNN: Medical care here, how was it? Because again, these are significant injuries but if they’re treated well or early …
Storm: Every burn has its own personality. It goes in its own direction. This hand got swollen and got infected. Infection is your No. 1 enemy with burns. … This then got a fungal infection. So this hand really went through the wringer and was pretty … double the size and really, you know, monstrous looking. Every burn on my body has had its own different personality. And all of them needed different things. So I got this cream (that) went here, and this hand needed this, and this hand needed that. My youngest daughter, Riley, because there were so many different lotions and types of bandages and wraps … she actually took sticky notes and organized everything. Just taking care of that and taking care of the wounds was pretty much all I could do. It was so time-consuming.
CNN: Is it hard for you to just be by that grill where this all happened, psychologically?
Storm: I haven’t really gone to the grill. It’s the first time I’ve been out there. I won’t cook on that grill. Maybe that seems silly, and maybe that’s just today, but it was … a terrible, traumatic, frightening event. And I don’t want to be – I don’t like being afraid. I believe in tackling things you’re afraid of. But I think it will be a very long time before I grill on that type of grill again. You know, I was in a hurry. That’s when a lot of accidents happen. You’re hurried, you’re distracted, you’re rushing, and that’s a big personal lesson for me is, slow down.
CNN: I hope that a lot of people are listening, because I have to say, guilty, you know, I’ve probably been in that same position before.
Storm: And also … how many people are drinking beers and grilling, just talking, you know how many little kids are wandering about around the grill and you know, it’s like a lot of things. It can very safe, and it can be very useful, and it can be a healthy way to cook. All of those things … can also be dangerous if you don’t do it properly and use it properly.
CNN: Let me ask you a couple of specific questions with regard to burns. Sometimes, people can develop a pigmentation, some excessive and some not enough. Is that something your doctor spoke about?
Storm: Yes. I can’t go in the sun at all for six months. And there are some pretty significant pigmentation dangers with permanent pigmentation issues to my face and to my neck. Obviously, I’ve got potentially really big issues on the horizon there with my chest and my hands.
CNN: Hot/cold sensitivity? Is that something that came up?
Storm: Yes. Hot and cold and just the temperature. I know that when I’ve gone to work, that even the lights in the studio … all of a sudden, that can bring on like a really serious heat flash, like change your body temperature, and at times you also get really, really cold … inability to regulate your own body temperature.
CNN: Obviously, the concern when you’re working and you’re at outside events, has that happened to you?
Storm: Well, you know, the Super Bowl is outside, so I’m going to have to be really, really, really careful. I’m going to be in direct sunlight, so I’m worried about that. In the studio, we read our copy off a teleprompter, and I have had vision change since the accident so the corneas are singed. … I had all my prescriptions changed. They have to move the cameras closer and change the type that we read in the teleprompter.
CNN: But you’re able to – you’re making it work. Do you think you’re over the worst of it now?
Storm: Physically, I think that the discomfort and the fatigue is still there. … This is my big thing for the day, talking to you, you know. Whereas normally this would have been a part of an extraordinarily busy day. And so, you know, being a mom, being an anchor, having a production company, running a foundation … I’m one of those go, go, go, go … people, and I’m just going to put one “go.” … Just go and proceed with caution and attention to what you’re doing instead of the crazy rush.