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Exerpt from SFWeekly, “Under Fire,” AnnaMcCarthy.
….Charles Lee, whom Estrada was visiting that day, was not one of those doctors. Lee, the director of microsurgery at St. Mary’s, is a body reconstruction expert. He and his team received media attention in January 2008 when they successfully harvested a man’s big toe to replace a thumb he had lost in a woodworking accident.
All expertise aside, Lee admits there were times he thought they would have to amputate Estrada’s leg: “It was a pretty big wound,” he said. “This is about as big as it gets.” Because Estrada had lost so much muscle, the injury required a similar kind of tissue transplant as the toe-to-thumb surgery. When he first arrived at San Francisco General, his bones were sticking out of his uniform pants. Lee says he transplanted muscle from Estrada’s abdomen to replace what he had lost on his leg; Estrada sports a long, dark centipede scar running down his belly to prove it.
Thanks to Lee and his crew, Estrada may have the opportunity to get back to work as a firefighter, which he says he wants to do — no matter how hard it is for him to watch the YouTube video of the fire, captured on a cellphone by a passerby. The video shows the entire incident from the moment Estrada approaches the warehouse with the hose to the moment he’s loaded into the ambulance…..