Father speaks out about East Harlem family tragedy

Dr. Sapna Parikh reports
April 4, 2014 2:47:54 PM PDT
We're hearing for the first time from a man whose wife and daughter were killed in that gas explosion in East Harlem last month.

His 16 year old son is still in the hospital, now in critical but stable condition.

Exactly three weeks ago, this man lost half his family, and his son Oscar has been hospitalized at Harlem Hospital ever since.

We're learning that Oscar is expected to recover, and his father is speaking out in gratitude.

"Gratitude for all who have supported me and my family throughout this great tragedy. I'm eternally grateful to all the New York City first responders," Cecilio Hernandez said.

The devoted father has remained at his son's side at the hospital.

"Mr. Hernandez is the most important member of the health care team. He's been doing a terrific job supporting his son. Without that kind of love and support miracles are far less possible," said Dr. Arthur Cooper, Harlem Hospital's director of trauma and pediatric surgery.

The blast broke both of Oscar's legs and his spine. It damaged his liver and burned half his body, worsening a potentially deadly skin condition Oscar was born with. It's called Epidermolysis Bullosa and causes severe blisters, similar to burns.

But now after three operations,doctors say he cheated death again.

"The fractures of his lower back have to be dealt with, he has to heal completely in terms of his thigh bone fratures. Once that process of healing has taken place we're all confident he'll be able to get back to his normal activities," said Dr. Cooper.

Life will be anything but normal for Cecilio. He lost half his family that morning of March 12th. His 4-year old daughter was at school that day and survived.

Doctors hope Oscar will spend part of his summer at home.

"I know in my heart that with the Lord's guidance and the continued support of all of you, we will overcome this tragedy," said Hernandez.

A tragedy, but there was a feeling of hope Wednesday, that the explosion took eight lives but it did not take his son.

Oscar is still in the burn unit with rods in both legs, a long road ahead but the trauma director says they do expect him to walk again.