It was just a little over three weeks ago when Bristol ESPN anchor, author and broadcaster Hannah Storm was seriously burned in a propane gas grill accident at her Fairfield home. Storm suffered second-degree burns on her chest and hand and first degree burns to her neck and face, losing half her hair, her eyebrows and eyelashes after she attempted to reignite a gas grill and residual fuel caught fire. The accident was kept under wraps until earlier this week when it was announced she would still host ABC’s New Year’s Day telecast of the 2013 Rose Bowl Parade, despite the accident. The Notre Dame alum, who poignantly and graphically explained her accident on air, expects to return to her duties at ESPN next week. But while healing on a beach with her family in San Diego, the mother of three daughters, who is married to sportscaster Dan Hicks, took some time to reflect on the accident and underscore the importance of grill safety as she Spilled the Beans with Java.
Q: How ARE you?
A: I am good. It’s a traumatic experience. I think anybody who endures a traumatic experience it just takes a while to get back to normal. I actually have been great since the parade. I’m with the girls at the beach outside San Diego to recuperate. I look like one of those crazy people on the beach. I cannot be exposed to sun because of the burns so I have gloves on and am all bundled up head to toe. It’s hilarious.
Q: There was no public word of you accident until weeks later. How did you keep it a secret?
A: We didn’t tell many people. Family, close friends, my co-anchors at ESPN, the Notre Dame alumni. Everyone sent lots of prayers, sent dinners. I needed time to heal. My co-anchors, Kevin Negandhi and Bob Ley called me every day.
Q: And then this past week?
A: I felt compelled to tell everyone because I knew I was going to be on air for the parade but I didn’t want the story to be about me. I wanted it to be a precautionary tale for other people. Seriously. I knew I had made mistakes with the grill but I escaped and can come back to work. I thought it was important to show people what had happened. That’s why I let ABC use pictures of my burns. I showed them to my co-anchors. It was hard to show them. I wanted people to understand how serious and potentially dangerous grills can be. ABC did a whole propane grill safety segment Wednesday night. And Super Bowl Sunday is coming up and that is supposed to be the day when grills are used the most. It was important to promote safety.
Q: What have your fans had to say since finding out about your accident?
A: So many people who have had scary incidents like that have written to me. I just want people who hear my story to be cautious.
Q: You are in an industry where looks are everything. Yet you showed pictures of yourself with missing hair and eyebrows, your burned extremities, and no makeup. Why?
A: I didn’t want people to see me hosting the New Year’s Rose Bowl Parade, all made up and with hair extensions and think “well that was easy, you can get burned badly and recover in three weeks.” I wanted people to see and to understand what a long and difficult road it is for burn victims. I wanted it to be respectful and realistic.
Q: As far as the disfigurement, how difficult is that to handle, even it is just temporary?
A: I don’t know if you know but I was born with a prominent birth mark under one of my eyes and without make-up you can see it. It look likes I have a black eye, so I am pretty comfortable with the fact that I don’t look perfect. I lived with it my whole life. That’s part of the reason for my Hannah Storm Foundation which raises awareness and provides treatment for children suffering from disfiguring birthmarks.
Q: When the accident happened it was you daughters that were home with you and rose to the occasion. Thoughts?
A: I am so proud of daughters. My 15-year-old Hannah, was the one who called 911 and they walked her through the right things to do for me while we waited for the ambulance. Pouring ice water on the wounds, what I should or should not be doing. She was calm and so incredible. My middle daughter Ellery has been changing my bandages and washing my hair. She was the one who drew eyebrows on me for Christmas Mass. My 11-year old Riley is also helping with the bandaging and she organized my medications in my bathroom with sticky notes so I know what to take when. She takes notes when the nurses are here and leaves me her cell phone number in case I have any questions.
Q: What lessons have you learned through this?
A: My kids are calm and compassionate and I am proud of that. My daughters take everything in stride. They were my really my impetus for getting back and doing the parade, for being careful now, for getting better. And if you are going to reignite a grill, you have to wait a few minutes for the resisdual gas to diminish before trying again.
Q: What has been your biggest adjustment since the accident?
A: Everyone else has to carry my bags and I am usually the one doing that for others. I have to understand that I need help and need to slow down. I am left-handed and that is the hand that was burned so I am trying to learn to do things with my right hand. I am learning to text with one thumb.
Q: When will you be cooking on the grill again?
A: I won’t be going near that grill.