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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – For Chef Ralph Pagano recovery is painful, long and ongoing.

The chef and owner of Naked Taco  is talking for the first time about the explosion sparked by a gas leak at the new restaurant he was opening in the Bahamas last month.

It left 30% of his body covered in burns.

“From my ankles to my knees, from my fingertips to my elbows,” said Pagano.

The ordeal almost sent him into shock.

“I ran over to the showers and started just run cold water on,” he said. “At that point the skin was dripping off my body. It was that moment where you see your life flash before your eyes…that happened.”

He arrived at the Jackson Memorial Hospital burn unit four weeks ago.

Four days ago, he couldn’t walk.

“I’m just getting to have range of motion in my hands again,” he said.

Although farther along in his rehabilitation, it’s a similar story for Chris Rotella.

He was engulfed in flames from head to toe last year, shortly after smelling fumes on a boat in Fort Lauderdale.

Beyond burns, what the two men share is gratitude.

With doctors and donors, they helped to unveil the newly renovated burn unit at Jackson Memorial Trauma Center, thanks to a $500,000 donation  from Florida Power and Light that brought in new equipment.

A treadmill, parallel bars, a trampoline; they’re the specialized tools key to a burn patients’ survival.

The newly named Florida Power and Light Jackson Memorial Hosptial Burn Rehabilitation Therapy Unit is a place for current patients like Pagano and former one’s like Rotella.

It’s as simple as this:

“They mean my life, they saved my life,” said Rotella.


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