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Updated: 6:56 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014 | Posted: 6:56 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014

Teen recovering after chimney falls on him during earthquake

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Nicholas Dillon teen injured in Napa quake photo
Nicholas Dillon teen injured in Napa quake
Teen recovering after chimney falls on him during earthquake

By Debora Villalon

KTVU – Bay Area

NAPA, Calif. —

There's good news from the family of Nicholas Dillon, the boy injured by a collapsed fireplace in the recent earthquake near Napa, California: He will be in a wheelchair awhile, but he will recover.

"His friend was sleeping on the couch, so he was sleeping over there," Aunt Lupe Roles told KTVU in the living room where the accident happened.

She pointed to the hardwood floor, newly cleaned but still showing scratches where dozens of bricks slammed down.

When the quake struck, 13-year-old Nicky was asleep on a mattress on the floor, enjoying a sleepover with his best friend.

"Nicholas, we heard him screaming," his grandmother Secorro Rosales recounted, her voice shaking with emotion, as she remembered searching for a flashlight and running to her grandson's aid.

The family found him buried from the waist down by a tile and brick fireplace – from floor to ceiling – that tore away and fell like a solid wall.

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He was scrambling to beat the collapse and almost did, but it caught him at the waist and fractured his pelvis.

"Luckily, he's young; he's energetic," aunt Carmen Rosales said outside U.C. Davis Medical Center, where Dillon is being treated. "He was able to move, not completely out of the way but enough to save his life."

Rosales and Nicky's parents, Matthew and Catalina Dillon, have been with the ninth-grader throughout his ordeal. He underwent a 10-hour surgery Sunday evening to repair several fractures. His aunt said he is in good spirits, is enjoying the attention and would have talked to reporters himself if he could.

"He just wants to make sure people get to know a little bit about him because he's a teenager," Rosales said, smiling.

Nicky's Napa bedroom is in disarray from the quake, and his life will be, too, for a while. He must stay in a wheelchair and keep weight off his pelvis for several months. Eventually, another surgery will be required to remove pins and screws once his bones have healed.

But his spine is fine, and for that his family is grateful.

And in retrospect, when Nicholas dragged his mattress to the living room for a Saturday night sleepover, it's a good thing he gave his best friend the couch, or they both could have been hurt.

His grandmother is still emotional, remembering waiting for paramedics as she covered her grandson with blankets and held his hand, comforting him.

"Telling him, 'Help is coming; just pray and have faith,'" said Secorro Rosales. "And he was crying and screaming, ‘I can't hold it; I can't hold it. There is too much pain.'"

Nicky will spend a few more days in Davis and then move to a Kaiser facility closer to home, where he will undergo rehabilitative care.

His aunt, Carmen, said he has told his family there's a lesson in his injury.

"He said, 'Well, if I learn anything from this, it's I will never sleep near a fireplace again.'"