Television reporter Adrienne Alpert walked out of a rehabilitation center Wednesday six months after the mast of her news van touched a power line and severe electrical burns forced amputation of an arm and a foot. "It's nice to be back among friends," the KABC-TV reporter said as she faced news cameras and colleagues after walking out unassisted despite loss of her right foot.
"I'm going home for Thanksgiving, I'm going home for the holidays," said Alpert, whose empty left sleeve and injured right hand were the only obvious signs of the severe injuries suffered when a powerful electrical bolt shot through her.
Alpert was seated in the front of a news van on May 22, preparing a report, when its mast touched a 34,500-volt overhead power line. She was badly burned and thrown to the ground as she jumped out of the van. Her camerawoman suffered minor injuries.
Alpert, 49, a veteran of Los Angeles and San Diego newscasts, spoke strongly and clearly, only coming close to tears when she spoke of those who helped her recovery.
"Every day is a precious gift," Alpert said.
She credited her progress to doctors, therapists and the attention of loved ones, including husband Barry Paulk and 7-year-old son Michael, during months at a burn center and the rehabilitation facility.
"He's been the most resilient kid through all this," she said. "He wishes that there was some way he could grow mommy a new arm and a new leg."
Alpert vowed to return to work after she learns to use prosthetic devices and completes outpatient rehabilitation.
"If you want to ask me what the hardest thing about this was, it was watching election coverage and not being there. So I hope I never miss another one," she said.
Alpert said that if any good could be found in the accident it was bringing attention to TV van safety. News vans have a history of accidents involving telescoping microwave masts being raised into power lines.
"If it stops it all then maybe there was a purpose for this," she said.
Dr. Thomas Hedge, medical director for the Center of Rehabilitation at Northridge Hospital Medical Center, said Alpert can only walk several hundred feet at a time but eventually will be able to do more.
"If you ask her to give a hundred percent she manages to give 110 or 120 percent. That's the person she is," he said.
Hedge said Alpert needs more surgery on her hand and the remainder of her left arm.
Arnold J. Kleiner, general manager of KABC-TV, said Alpert's release from the rehabilitation center "brings her one day closer to coming back to be with her 'Eyewitness News' family where she belongs."