DALLAS — "Miracles happen, and you've seen it first hand," said Dallas Fire Captain Chris Gadomski.
He's been with Dallas Fire-Rescue for 22 years.
On Monday, after nearly four weeks, he was discharged from Parkland Memorial Hospital's burn ICU and transferred to inpatient rehabilitation at UT Southwestern.
Gadomski is one of four firefighters injured in the Sept. 29 gas explosion at the Highland Hills Apartments in Southeast Dallas. He and two others, Driver Engineer Ron Hall and Officer Pauline Perez, got severe burns and injuries. The fourth firefighter, Officer Andrew Curtis, was treated and released the day of the explosion with a foot injury he received while helping Gadomski that day.
Gadomski remembers the incident clearly.
"We were walking down the breezeway. [Pauline] went to the right. Ron was next to me and the explosion happened," he said.
He describes the explosion throwing him through two walls. He was separated from Hall and Perez.
"I was laying there. I had skin hanging off my arms, and I heard Ron screaming for help," said Gadomski.
He wanted to go toward Hall's voice, but couldn't move his legs.
Instead, Gadomski reached toward his back pocket where his radio was still halfway tucked in.
"It's just a true miracle," he said.
At first, Gadomski said a citizen came running through the breezeway searching for people. That man found him, and begged to pull him out.
"I said to leave me there, go get the ambulance. I could hear the paramedics come. Go get help. Tell them where I'm at."
But Gadomski never saw that man again.
"When he left, I turned over and I looked up and the building was on fire. I thought, 'Here we go. I'm going to die right here in all this smoke and everything,'" he said.
He believes he wouldn't be alive if it weren't for Officer Andrew Curtis, who rushed to the scene and found Gadomski in the rubble.
"[Curtis] heard my mayday," Gadomski said. "It looked like a warzone. Somehow he found me."
He calls Curtis a hero.
Gadomski thanks the paramedics who transported him to Parkland. He thanks the healthcare workers at Parkland for all they've done during his stay. While he's had up and down moments during his recovery, Gadomski has made significant progress with his burns and leg injuries.
For the next few weeks, he will work on rehabilitation at UT Southwestern before he can return home to continue healing. He can't put weight on either of his legs at this time, the right leg for six weeks and the left leg for three months. And his overall recovery will take much longer than that.
"I'll be with my buddy Ron over there, and we can start pushing each other to get better," said Gadomski.
He and Hall are both at inpatient rehabilitation. Meanwhile, Perez is healing from her injuries at home.
A GoFundMe page has been created to help the three firefighters and their families.
A bake sale will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 10, by Assist the Officer Foundation and Dallas Police Association spouses at 1412 Griffin Street E to raise money for the firefighters injured in the Highland Hills apartment explosion. For more information or to make a donation, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 214-747-6839.