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Woman Whose Leg Was Crushed By Taxi Expected To Spend Years Recuperating

A woman whose leg was crushed by a taxi that veered off a street and pinned her against a building in the Gaslamp Quarter is likely to spend years recuperating and could wind up losing the limb, a doctor assigned to her case said today.

"Most people take two years to recover from an injury like this," orthopedic surgeon Paul Girard said during an afternoon update on the condition of Encinitas resident Dominique Gambale. "Some take even more."

Gambale, 45, was standing near several dozen other people outside Stingaree nightclub at Sixth and Island avenues in downtown San Diego shortly before 2 a.m. Saturday when the cab veered into the crowd at about 15 mph, according to police.

The taxi driver, 52-year-old Sam Hassan Daly, later told police he blacked out moments before the crash, SDPD traffic Lt. Rick O'Hanlon said. There was no immediate indication he was intoxicated, according to O'Hanlon.

A total of 34 other pedestrians suffered less serious injuries, either from the wreck itself or during the chaotic scene that followed. In the moments after the crash, shocked and angered witnesses grabbed Daly, pulled him out of his vehicle and roughed him up, apparently believing he had tried to flee.

The cabbie was left with a broken nose, though it was unclear if he suffered the injury in the traffic accident or during the subsequent melee, O'Hanlon said.

Due to the severity of Gambale's injuries -- police initially reported that her right leg had been severed below the knee -- doctors considered amputation "an option," Girard said during the briefing outside UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest.

However, her overall good health. along with the degree of remaining nerve and circulatory function in the ravaged leg. made her a viable candidate for efforts to save the extremity, the surgeon said.

"Our team is optimistic. ... She had good blood flow to the end of the limb, which is an important factor in whether it's salvageable or not," he said.

So far, Gambale has had two surgeries, one in the hours after the accident and another Monday. The procedures largely served to clean her wounds and stabilize her leg as much as possible.

Gambale will have to undergo at least two reconstructive operations to graft in replacements for the considerable amount of lost soft tissue, according to Girard. It will be at least six months until the leg can bear any weight at all, he said.

For some time, she also will be at risk of losing the limb to infection. The surgeon said he had seen patients with injuries similar to Gambale's suffer that outcome as long as 12 years after the initial trauma.

"We're just getting to know each other," Girard said. "This is going to be a long relationship."

Gambale, who is under the care of a team of roughly 15 medical and surgical experts, has displayed a positive attitude in spite of the extent of her injuries, the surgeon said.

"She's actually in pretty good spirits," Girard said. "She's optimistic but realistic."

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