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Former Miamisburg Resident Brought Back To U.S. After Gas Explosion Injuries In Cambodia

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Abbey Alexander
Abigail Alexander

On August 14, 18-year-old Abbey Alexander, a Miamisburg native now living in Cambodia, was traveling on a motorbike with a fellow teacher. The pair were seriously injured when the petrol station they were riding past exploded, engulfing the two in a massive fireball. Other riders and bystanders were also injured.

By late Thursday or early Friday, Abbey was taken aboard a medical transport plane and flown to a medical facility in Denver where she arrived on Saturday.

Abbey’s aunt, Cathy Wierzbowski of Springboro, says in Denver doctors will decide how best to treat the burns that cover more than 35 percent of her body.

“Unfortunately, she doesn't have enough of her own skin to graft so I believe they're looking at synthetics,” she said.

Wierzbowski says Abbey received good care from her Cambodian doctors but the family is relieved to have her back in the United States.

“My brother is very grateful, not only to the plane service of course but also to the State Department and how quickly they were able to sort of rally behind them and make it possible for her to get home.”

The average flight time from Cambodia to Denver is more than 17 hours, and the trip can be especially arduous for a critically ill patient.

Dr. Jason Wannemacher is a Pulmonary and Critical Care Nurse Practitioner with Dayton Respiratory Center. He is also a flight nurse practitioner with Cleveland Metro LifeFlight and has been involved in medical transport for 12 years.

“International transports are by far the most challenging,” he says. “You’re flying into countries with very different rules/regulations/legislation that you must be sensitive too. Often times, transport teams receive a quick briefing about major rules they need to be cognizant of and adhere too. Like commercial traveling, these teams still have to go through and clear both countries Customs; regardless of how critical the patient or situation is.”

Beyond logistics, Wannemacher also says transporting a critically ill patient is always with risk. 

Abbey Alexander teaches young kids in Cambodia. Her aunt says it's something she enjoys. "She was definitely coming into her own. I have enjoyed watching her blossom into this just amazing young woman"
Credit Abbey Alexander
Abbey Alexander teaches young kids in Cambodia. Her aunt says it's something she enjoys. "She was definitely coming into her own. I have enjoyed watching her blossom into this just amazing young woman"

“The medical issue has already stressed the body. Transport can potentially cause over a 200% increase in the body’s stress/metabolic demand, with complicates the illness even more. Transport teams work diligently to control this demand.”

Dr. Wannemacher says the plane’s altitude, which is often well above 20,000 feet, is a major concern as well.

“Working with the medical pilots on appropriate pressurization and temperature of the jet cabin, based on the medical problem, becomes critical to prevent further medical complications; all because of the major laws of chemistry where pressure and temperature cause certain reactions in the body.”

Though Abbey came through the trip “safe and sound,” says Cathy Wierzbowski, there is still is still the issue of money. She believes the trip could cost as much as $160,000. The family has established a GoFundMe page to help with the flight and other medical costs incurred as Abbey recovers.

Wierzbowski says she’ll fly out to Denver next week to be with Abbey and her brother Aaron, Abby’s father, and hopes to soon hear her niece’s distinctive giggle once again.

“Right now, there's a lot of stories about the explosion and about the aftermath of that. It will always be a part of her, but it doesn't define who Abbey is. She is this witty, funny, genuine girl. She is so charismatic, and this is unfortunate, but Abbey was bound for big, good things before this and I know that she'll pull it off still.”