Despite her best efforts and intentions, Hannah Storm won't be resuming her SportsCenter anchoring duties today at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn.
The left hand throbs. The neck and chest wounds are raw. The threat of infection is ever present.
Though she continues to cheat the calendar, thriving as one of few female sportscasters who turn 50 and remain relevant in an industry that often prizes looks above talent, she still faces a grueling recovery from burns sustained in a propane gas grill accident Dec. 11.
While attempting to relight the barbecue in her backyard, Storm recalled, a fire erupted and engulfed her in flames, causing first- and second-degree burns to her chest, neck, face, hair and hands. As one of her daughters frantically called 911, the longtime ESPN anchor tore off her shirt and doused the flames with her hands.
"I could have been killed or severely disfigured," Storm said from her cell phone. "I was being impatient, in a hurry to get dinner, and I didn't realize propane stayed in the air like that. Overall, I have this tremendous sense of gratitude. But burns take a lot out of you. My left hand the one I write with is going to take a long time to heal."
After remaining in seclusion during the early weeks of recovery, Storm hosted the Rose Parade for a fifth time. Her reasoning to speak publicly was twofold. This was an opportunity to both encourage burn victims and publicize her foundation that for years has provided medical care for children born with vascular birthmarks.
Storm herself was born with a defect under her left eye, but because of the wonders of technology and makeup, the mark is concealed on camera. Except for her heavily bandaged left hand, with only her fingers exposed, she didn't look any different during the Rose Parade telecast, either.
But appearances deceive. The flames burned off her eyebrows and eyelashes. She lost almost half of her shoulder-length hair. At one point during the telecast, and with a hint of defiance, Storm tugged lightly on the extensions. Simple tasks such as dressing and showering, or scribbling notes and turning pages, remain difficult.
"I don't want anybody to get a false impression of what burn victims go through," Storm said during a brief vacation in San Diego with her family. "I know what I look like without the makeup and the bells and whistles. The trauma from this (fire) is very real. But we all need goals, and when people ask, I think it's important to let them know I am coming to grips with all the implications."
Storm, 50, has never been one to hide. Though she started as a disc jockey for a hard-rock music station and has anchored network news shows and award-winning programs, the male-dominated world of sports is in her DNA.
Her father, Mike Storen, is the former commissioner of the defunct American Basketball Association, and a general manager, for among other teams, the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks. She began visiting locker rooms while in diapers.
Accordingly, Storm, who is married to NBC sports anchor Dan Hicks and is the mother of Hannah (15), Ellery (14) and Riley (11), is overwhelmed by very little. And intimidated by none. In one well-publicized incident, she refused to budge when an enraged Albert Bell chased reporters out of the dugout during the 1995 Braves-Indians World Series. On another occasion, she downplayed Tony Kornheiser's critique of her wardrobe; and she still prefers fitted to funky.
Since her earliest days in sportscasting, in fact, when she co-anchored CNN's fledgling "Inside the NBA" reinvented as TNT's glitzy postgame show featuring the always entertaining Charles Barkley Storm has been known for her preparation, sophistication, resilience and wit.
(As a personal aside: During my days with the Atlanta Constitution and an occasional guest on CNN, Hannah kindly and patiently guided me through the late-late-night makeup ritual and eased my initial on-camera jitters).
During our recent chat, however, Storm, who owns a company that produces in-depth stories on female athletes, expressed her own rare bout of anxiety.
"Maybe because I'm a little older, I'm at peace with where I am and what I've done," she said. "I need to slow down, get healthy, stop multitasking and start living in the moment. But I love telling stories. That's sort of my nature. And you never want to lose that passion."