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San Marcos apartment fire survivor walking after body 70% burned

Zachary Sutterfield suffered burns across nearly 70% of his body during an apartment complex fire in San Marcos. Two of his friends were among the five killed in the blaze.

SAN ANTONIO - Zachary Sutterfield, who's bandaged from head to toe, is once again walking with the aid of his nurses.

“Remember step, step, stop,” a nurse was heard telling the 20-year-old during rehab partially recorded on cell phone video. “Step, step... Stop. Slow down. Don't get too excited."

It's a painful but promising step forward for the Texas State University student, who’s from San Angelo, after he nearly died in his sleep.

“So, Zach's about 69 percent burned," Michael Quiroz, nurse at the Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center said.

His injuries were the result of a crime. Investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said someone set the Iconic Village Apartment complex in San Marcos ablaze.

The July 20th early morning fire killed 5 people, including two of Zach's friends who he was staying with while waiting for his apartment to be ready.

Zach was so badly burned, his mother Deona Jo Sutterfield, who goes by the nickname “DJ”, identified him at the burn center thanks to a chess piece tattoo on his foot. Quiroz, who’s been working with DJ so she can help with her son’s transition to life after severe burns, turned to the CASH FOR KINDNESS program. She and her fellow nurses at the center wanted to help the aspiring English teacher with the purchase of a voice activated computer, since he currently can't use his fingers due to the extensive nature of his injuries.

DJ was brought into an empty room in the Intensive Care Unit where Fox Antonio’s Ryan Wolf had been secretly waiting. DJ had never talked on camera about the incident since the nightmare unfolded 140 days ago.

"I want you to know that I did this from the bottom of my heart so we can help get a computer to help Zach's life be easier,” Quiroz told DJ while she held her hands. “So, don't be mad at me. I love you."

DJ initially wanted to walk out of the room—a mix of apparent nervousness and shock. But after witnessing her son's amazing recovery following more than 20 surgeries and counting, she instead reached out to hug his nurse for the dedication.

"I love you all,” she told Quiroz as she cried.

Wolf asked if she would kindly share how her son’s spirits are now.

“My child is brilliant,” she told him. “He really is. And he has a long road to recovery. But I know he's going to do something amazing with this. Because that's the type of kid he is."

DJ said her son has no recollection of the night of the fire. They've opted to only tell him little bits and pieces so the news won't hinder his recovery.

Nurses at the burn center wanted to pay it forward to her family. They called them a constant source of positivity, not just for Zach, but the entire staff there as well.

Wolf explained to her what the CASH FOR KINDNESS program was all about.

“Zach's lucky to be alive,” he told his mother. “And he's lucky to have family like you who support him in such an amazing way."

Wolf reached into his pocket in pulled out a stack of $100 bills. He handed the money to DJ and said, “this is on behalf of Fox San Antonio.”

DJ started counting the cash. Tears immediately followed.

“$500, $600, $700, $800, $900, $1,000,” she said.

DJ turned to Wolf and gave him what can only be described as a heartfelt hug.

“We really want to see Zach get that computer," Wolf told her while the two embraced.

“Thank you for what you’ve done,” she said.

Click here to leave Zachary an uplifting message on his Facebook page and or for information on how to make a donation to help the family with medical expenses.

Click here to nominate someone for the $1,000 CASH FOR KINDNESS award.

Follow Ryan Wolf on FACEBOOK / TWITTER / INSTAGRAM

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