Eric Engberg has been to Memorial Park in Pescadero so many times, he can’t even begin to count.
“Over three generations of my family have been going there to camp every summer,” said the East Bay resident.
For his nephew Zachary Rowe, visiting from Arizona, it was his first time, and possibly his last.
Whether or not the 12-year-old boy will ever want to visit the place where he lost his right leg to a falling 74-foot tree is a question no one is prepared to answer right now.
On July 25 at 4:30 a.m., while he was sleeping next to his cousin in a tent at Memorial Park, smashing his right pelvis and leg.
He was rushed to surgery at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto where his right leg had to be amputated at the hip, medically termed as "hip disarticulation amputee."
Less than two percent of all amputations are this severe, according to Zachary's medical doctors.
That very first surgery is only one of many more to come.
“The attending physician relayed to us a week ago that it is possible Zachary will face up to 50 more surgeries,” said Engberg. “He has been undergoing more than one surgical procedure each week to control infection from spreading.”
The medical staff at Lucille Packard Medical Center have provided no time frame as to when Zachary will be able to go home, but he will most likely be there for at least several months, according to Engberg.
He is still in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit with a nurse assigned specifically to him 24 hours a day. His doctors are monitoring him very closely and his vital organs are a major concern.
The family is very concerned about the emotional trauma that Zachary, an avid swimmer and golfer, will face once he realizes his right leg is missing.
“Zachary remains sedated and does not know at this point about his leg being amputated,” said Engberg.
The well being of other family members who were there with Zachary at the time of the accident are also a concern, especially 10-year-old Alex Merin, another nephew of Engberg, who was asleep in the tent next to Zachary that night.
“It has been very hard on him and traumatic as he blames himself for the accident and wishes he could have done something to prevent it,” said Engberg.
San Mateo County Park officials are currently in the process of analyzing the tree and the accident site. At this time they do not know what caused the tree to fall.
“We do believe that our parks and campgrounds are safe, and we are deeply saddened by this tragic accident,” said Dave Holland, Assistant County Manager. "Our hearts go out to the injured boy and his family. We cannot begin to know or understand what he and his family must be going through. “
Zachary’s family members who were at the campsite when the accident occurred keep reliving the traumatic experience over and over in their minds, including his mother Michelle Peters and aunt Helene Engberg.
“Hearing the cracking of the tree as it started to fall and feeling helpless to do anything about it, my family relayed that when the tree fell it sounded like a bomb hit,” said Engberg. “The rush of the wind that resulted from the tree falling is a memory they will never forget. This, of course, in no way compares to the immense challenges that Zachary will face for the rest of his life.”
A Bank of America account called the Zach Rowe Fund has been set up for donations from people in the Bay Area to help Zachary and his family with medical bills. The account number is 164102211549. Donations to this fund can be sent to any Bank of America branch or made in person.