The family of Gabrielle Carisone received a call no one ever wants to get.
They were told Carisone, 28, suffered third-degree burns over 40% of her body after a fire swept through her condominium in a May 1 blaze that damaged more than a dozen units at the Union Hills Condominiums complex in Union Township, New Jersey.
Carisone was airlifted to Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pa., where she was placed in a medical induced coma, her sister, Brianna Whitmore, told NJ Advance Media.
“Because of the extent of her burns, she would just be in too much pain to be awake,” Whitmore said. “She’s also going to need several surgeries.”
Whitmore said Carison, “lost everything in the fire. All of her life’s savings and everything she’s worked for.
“She just bought that condo, so all of her money went into it, and we have no idea what type of medical expenses she’s going need to pay after this is all done.”
Her family has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to help cover medical and other expenses.
“We’ve never gone through anything like this, and she’s going to be asleep now and in this medically induced coma for a long time,” Whitmore said. “Then by the time she wakes up, we’re going have to do this whole grieving process all over again with her … how she’s going to wrap her head around the fact that, one she’s badly injured, and two, she lost everything.”
Carisone on Tuesday underwent her first of many skin graft surgeries and is in stable but critical condition, her family said. She also has a broken orbital bone above her eyebrow, a few skull fractures and a broken nose, the result of falling from her third-floor unit.
“She came out headfirst and (a firefighter) was trying to turn her around, and her body gave out basically,” Whitmore said.
Carisone, who grew up in Branchburg, had just purchased the condo two months ago. She is the middle child of five siblings and works in marketing, Whitmore said.
“We’re devastated. It’s very shocking. It’s a horrible tragedy,” Whitmore said. “We’re all very upset, and we’re just trying to keep positive that everything’s going be OK and she’s going to get better and make a full recovery, but it’s devastating,”
Four other people were injured in the blaze, which was first reported at 3:48 a.m.
Union Township Mayor David DeGiralamo said a couple was also injured during the fire, a man with fractures to his ankles and a woman with fractured ankles and a spinal injury. Clinton Fire Department Chief Jeff Hedden said two firefighters injured in the blaze were treated for their injuries at the scene.
The fire burned six units and affected 12 others, according to Hedden. He said residents from all of the units had to be evacuated, and the building has been declared uninhabitable. DeGiralamo said about 15 residents were displaced.
DeGiralamo spearhead the creation of a GoFundMe page to help those displaced by the fire.
The state Division of Fire Safety and the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office investigation into the fire is still ongoing, according to Tammori Petty, director of communications for the Department of Community Affairs. In 2013, another fire occurred at a separate building in the complex, resulting in 15 units being destroyed.
Vashti Harris may be reached at [email protected].
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