Randy McIlwain, NBCDFW.com
Michelle Petersilia credits renowne burn specialist Dr. Gary Purdue with saving her leg. Purdue was killed by a suspected drunk driver on Sunday.
A patient of a burn surgeon who died in a motorcycle crash says his death is "heartbreaking."
Police say a man suspected of drunken driving hit Dr. Gary Purdue after running a stop sign Sunday morning.
"It's heartbreaking," Michelle Petersilia said. "He was a wonderful man."
Purdue, the chief of the burn section at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, treated Petersilia after she was hit by a car while she was walking in Richardson 13 years ago.
"I was thrown in the air and landed in the street, and the car drove over me and dragged me underneath it," she said. "My pelvis and my sacrum were completely shattered. My spine was separated from the lower half of my body. I had eight broken ribs, a punctured lung. The muffler burned a hole in my thigh all the way down to the muscle."
The third-degree burns on her leg, side and back posed a medical dilemma for orthopedic and burn specialists at Parkland Hospital.
"My bones needed to be cast, but where my injuries were, there were skin issues," Petersilia said.
Doctors decided to put her in a body cast, but it caused an infection. Doctors said her leg would have to be amputated, but then Purdue stepped it.
"He said, 'Get the cast off of her now,'" Petersilia said.
She said she remembers the force in his voice and arguments with orthopedic specialists concerned that her broken bones would not heal without the cast.
"He didn't treat me any differently than he would if I was his own child," she said.
Over the next three months, Petersilia endured painful skin grafts. She was bedridden and then in a wheelchair. Purdue was with her for every day that passed and every tear that fell.
"He would come in, and he would have a smile on his face, and he was full of hope," she said.
A memorial service for Purdue will be held at the First Baptist Church in Carrollton on Saturday.