It's going to be a good Christmas for Andy Crowell. He's lucky to be alive.
Crowell, a Reno resident raised in Virginia City, was burned over 80 percent of his body when he slipped into a hot spring north of Gerlach in late September.
His condition, originally described as critical, has been upgraded to fair at the University Medical Center burn unit in Las Vegas and according to Barbara Bush, mother of girl friend Patience Stewart, he's doing very well.
Stewart has been at Crowell's side in Las Vegas since the accident, and according to Bush the two have shown a lot of strength and courage.
"His spirits are good, and his determination is strong. I'm really proud of both of them. They haven't despaired, which would be so easy to do," she said. "For a while they were calling him the wonder boy, because he was healing so well from the inside.
"He's doing great. He had a major surgery this week, and the skin grafting looks like it's taking very well." Bush said, noting she wasn't sure how much longer Crowell and her daughter would be in Las Vegas. But if this most recent skin grafting surgery is successful it could be his last, and he could become an out-patient as early as mid-January.
Bush said there have been some bad times. Stewart had her car stolen from the hospital's parking lot in Las Vegas, but fortunately it was returned with little damage.
"That was the weekend I worried about Patience holding it together. But she did," Bush said, noting that her whole family, five children, are very close and all have pitched in during this crisis.
Bush is paying the rent and utilities on the Reno apartment the couple share, and Stewart's brothers and sisters have been keeping the place up.
"Patience and Andy have been together for eight years," she said. "I don't know if they'll ever get married but they are in a committed relationship, and he's part of the family."
The ordeal started when a weekend of fun turned to tragedy in late September. Crowell and Stewart, together with Lisa O'Shea and boyfriend Dominic Delafuente, spent a weekend motorcycling and relaxing in the Black Rock Desert.
The two couples stopped at a hot spring located about 30 miles north of Gerlach, and their two dogs jumped into the scalding pool after being released from the truck. The water registered 200 degrees F and when the dogs started yelping, Crowell and O'Shea rushed in to rescue them.
Crowell was apparently sucked into the funnel-shaped pool, resulting in third-degree burns up to the mid-chest area.
O'Shea managed to jump out of the pool more quickly, but was badly burned nevertheless. She died of complications shortly after the accident.
Stewart's dog, a German shepherd-Chow mix named Ezra, was submerged in the pool and died almost immediately. The second dog, a Rottweiler named Leo, was pulled out yelping. He lost his hide and hair and was euthanized that evening.
Crowell attended Virginia City schools and worked as a carpenter for a Virginia Highlands contractor. He had no insurance.
Those wishing to contribute can send donations to P.O. Box 421, Virginia City, Nevada, 89440. Checks or money orders can be made out to Andrew Crowell. Donations can also be dropped off at any Bank of America, designated for Andrew Crowell's account.