The Cambrian

Fundraising campaign started for woman who sustained ‘extensive burns’ in Cambria house fire

Firefighters battle an early morning fire Tuesday, May 29, 2018, in Cambria's PineKnolls area.
Firefighters battle an early morning fire Tuesday, May 29, 2018, in Cambria's PineKnolls area. Courtesy

Friends and strangers are rallying to help the recovery of the woman who was severely burned in a May 29 house fire in Cambria.

A campaign to raise money for Sherry Hilber has been launched at gofundme.com/help-sherry-rise-from-the-ashes. Hilber could be released from hospital rehabilitation by early September, she told her nearly lifelong friend Dana VanBell, who started the GoFundMe effort.

VanBell wrote that the fire completely engulfed Hilber’s rental home, reduced all her possessions to ashes and almost ended her life.

“She sustained extensive burns on her back and legs,” VanBell said.

The house was destroyed by the fire, and demolition was to have begun last week.

Funds are needed to help Hilber find and pay for somewhere to live and replace all her everyday necessities. Of course, some things can’t be replaced, but Hilber says she is moving beyond all that into her life from now on.

Because of the severity of Hilber’s injuries, VanBell said, the ambulance that night took her directly from Cambria to Grossman Burn Center in Los Angeles, a four-hour trip.

Hilber said that decision likely saved her life.

Surgeons operated on her as soon as she arrived at the burn center. Subsequently, “she underwent painful repetitive skin debriding procedures to allow her skin to heal,” VanBell said. “Skin grafts were required, and Sherry remained in the intensive care unit over a long period.”

After the hospital released Hilber, she transferred to a long-term rehabilitation center, still far from home and away from family and friends, VanBell said.

“The physical therapists are teaching her how to move and walk again,” VanBell said. “Her release date will be set shortly, but Sherry has no home to return to and no worldly possessions other than her iPad.”

She will definitely require financial help to rebuild her life, continue her long recovery and eventually return to her charity work for the nonprofit she founded in 1999, Rx Laughter. Hilber is looking forward toward being able to complete an Rx Laughter Comedy Camp in Big Sur for adolescents in need of humor during their cancer care.

However, all funds donated to the GoFundMe campaign will go toward Hilber’s recovery and her return to normal life.

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