Explosion victim recovering at UNC Hospitals

Darrel Handelsman

June 11, 2012 5:46:58 PM PDT
The past few weeks have been challenging for Darrel Handelsman.

The manager of the Fayetteville Swampdogs baseball team was injured May 24 when a gas grill exploded at J.P. Riddle Stadium in Fayetteville.

"I didn't really realize, I don't think the magnitude of what had happened or didn't feel the magnitude of what had happened until probably much, much later," said Handelsman.

Handelsman suffered second-degree burns to 20 percent of his body.

Team operations manager Mark Wilderman also suffered severe burns in the blast. The pair are recovering at the UNC Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill.

Handelsman said he's working through the pain of rehab.

"The pain is good. That means there's progress being made," he offered.

Handelsman said May 24 he was at the ballpark helping test out a new concession item - a sausage and pepper sandwich - when something went terribly wrong.

"I remember being in the kitchen and we're cooking some food and the next thing I know we're outside waiting on the ambulances to come pick us up," he explained.

Handelsman spent some time in intensive care, but he's not needed surgery to treat the burns on his face, hands, arms, and legs. Still, recovery hasn't been easy.

"Just standing up on my feet was one of the most painful things I've ever done," he offered.

His wife Jody is a constant companion, but perhaps the most difficult part of his rehab has been being away from home and from his two young boys.

"It's painful, but it's, you know, ultimately at the end of the day, what gets me through it, is seeing Jody and seeing my boys and knowing that every day we try to get better is a day I'm close to getting home," said Handelsman. "Hearing those guys on the phone every day, it's tough. But it's what gets me through every day and makes me want to work that much harder on my rehab and my recovery."

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