On a cold morning in November of 2018, Brayden was on his way to work when he was involved in a single-car accident. The car went over a guardrail and burst into flames. His injuries were devastating: in addition to other trauma, he was burned over 85% of his body.
Brayden was airlifted to a local hospital where he spent nearly seven months. While there, both Brayden’s legs and his left hand were amputated, and he lost more than 50% of his body weight. The hospital staff considered him “noncompliant” and difficult to work with– not surprising given his bleak situation, and the fact that he was kept heavily sedated for much of the time.
Finally, the decision was made to discharge him to his father’s home for hospice care. He weighed an emaciated 82 pounds. He was unable to sit up and his burn wounds were still open and extremely painful.
The family friend suggested Shriners Hospitals for Children—Cincinnati might be able to help. After a consult, Brayden was brought to Cincinnati in May of 2019.
The difference in care was instantly apparent. “Here we use a team approach to treat our patients,” said Cindy DeSerna, LISW-S, CCM, manager of care management for Cincinnati Shriners Hospital. “Brayden needed so much. Because he was legally an adult, no one at the previous hospital made him do the hard work when he became frustrated. We knew he would need all the help our team could give him.”
“A large burn can be mentally as well as physically debilitating,” said Petra Warner, M.D., FACS, Cincinnati Shriners Hospital Chief of Staff and Brayden’s burn surgeon. “It takes internal strength to redefine who you are and accept what has happened. Brayden has this strength—it was visible on his first day in clinic when he stated he wanted to regain his independence.”
Burn injuries like Brayden’s cause a hypermetabolic state that results in increased muscle wasting. Patients often require three times their normal caloric intake to begin healing. The clinical dietitians at Cincinnati Shriners Hospital understand that, and develop a liquid diet specifically designed to provide the precise nutrients and calories for each patient.
Brayden also worked regularly with hospital psychiatrist Joseph Cresci Jr., M.D., who quickly recognized that the young man had become clinically depressed. Dr. Cresci prescribed medication to boost his appetite as well as his mood.
Click here to view the video clip of Brayden’s story.
Within seven weeks, Brayden gained more than 40 pounds. Along with proper nutrition, Dr. Warner’s skilled skin grafting and proper dressing changes began to heal his wounds. He was also speaking with Dr. Cresci three times a week, who helped him see some light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
Now it was time to start the hard work of recovery. Brayden hadn’t sat upright in nearly eight months and even the effort was extremely painful. Cincinnati Shriners’ burn nurses know that it takes patience and tenacity—combined with a bit of “tough love”— for patients like Brayden to get better. At first, the pain made him difficult to work with, but his nurses didn’t let up. Finally, during a particularly tough session, Brayden’s nurse looked him in the eye and said, “I know this hurts, but you HAVE to do it. I’m not going to give up on you!” It was a turning point for Brayden; he realized that he could get better.
By the end of June, Brayden was strong enough to move forward in his recovery. Less than two months earlier, he had been released from another hospital because there was nothing more it could do for him. Now because of Shriners Hospitals for Children, he had a path to take back his life.
Brayden headed to Shriners Hospitals for Children—Houston to regain his independence. The Houston Shriners Hospital specializes in orthopaedic treatment and provides intensive inpatient physical and occupational therapy.
The goal at Houston hospital was to build Brayden’s upper body and core strength, so he could sit up on his own and transfer from one chair to another. Their prosthetics team also crafted a device that would allow him to propel himself in a manual wheelchair, which was a game changer—a real move toward self-reliance.
Brayden will continue treatment at both hospitals, and though his challenges are far from over, the life-changing care of Shriners Hospitals for Children is giving Brayden the tools and treatment to work toward a positive future.
On a typical summer day at the Georgetown, Ohio fire department, Emergency Medical Technician Nickie responded to a call reporting a dog bite injury. Although the incident took place in her neighborhood, she didn’t think much about it until she arrived on the scene to find that the injured child was her 12-year old son, Cooper. “It looked like half of his face was gone,” she said later. She learned that the attack occurred when an unrestrained dog crawled under a fence where Cooper was playing with friends.
The boy was airlifted to the nearby children’s hospital, where he received more than 200 stitches to his face and neck, and another 40 to his back. The process took six hours, after which they were sent home.
At a follow-up visit two weeks later, Nickie was told Cooper didn’t need plastic surgery for another year or two. When she disagreed, a plastic surgeon was consulted. She learned that the specialist’s treatment wouldn’t be covered by insurance, meaning the family would have to pay all of the cost to improve Cooper’s appearance. Nickie recalled the devastating news, saying “I felt like I didn’t protect him when he was injured; now I couldn’t fix him.”
To help her cope, Nickie began sharing their story on Facebook. Someone suggested they reach out to Shriners Hospitals for Children—Cincinnati. At first she was puzzled; she only knew the hospital for its world-class pediatric burn care. She soon learned that Cincinnati Shriners Hospital is also a destination for plastic and reconstructive surgery, and treats children regardless of a family’s ability to pay. Nickie made a call on a Tuesday. Minutes later, she and Cooper had an appointment for the following Friday.
At the appointment, they met plastic surgeon Scott Rapp, M.D., FACS, who agreed with Nickie’s assessment that Cooper needed reconstructive surgery. He also suggested it be followed by laser treatments. Using lasers for scar reduction is a relatively new procedure; the reconstructive surgeons at Shriners’ specialty hospitals have perfected its use to improve the appearance of the scars from burns as well as many other injuries.
“Dr. Rapp was so reassuring,” Nickie recalled of their visit. “He quashed all our fears and spent a lot of time talking with Cooper to make sure he felt comfortable.”
After Cooper’s outstanding outcome, Nickie was determined to spread the word about Cincinnati Shriners Hospital, using social media to reach out to mothers in similar situations, connecting at least two families to its skilled, family-centered care. “I don’t want another parent to ever have to feel like I did,” she said.
One quiet afternoon while home with her father Scott, six-year-old Emma accidentally knocked over a bottle of commercial-grade drain opener which was stored in a closet. Not realizing the danger, she tried to clean up the spill herself with paper towels, kneeling in the caustic liquid. Within minutes it burned through her pants and into her left shin.
When Emma showed her father the “brown spot” on her leg, he quickly realized what happened. They rushed to the local children’s hospital where, after a four-hour wait, the two were dispatched to the burn experts at Shriners Hospitals for Children—Cincinnati.
Emma’s wound was treated that same day, and Scott was given all the training and supplies they would need to help it heal at home. But at a follow-up visit two weeks later, the depth of the wound had not improved sufficiently—Emma would need a skin graft.
Dr. Petra Warner, Cincinnati Shriners Hospital Chief of Staff and burn surgeon, put the family at ease with her careful briefing of the procedure. “It is important to make parents feel heard and included, and that is exactly what Dr. Warner did,” Emma’s mother Christina recalled of the experience.
Emma, who often experiences anxiety in stressful situations, was particularly calm about the process, much to her parents’ surprise. “I knew I was safe because all the doctors were smiling at me,” Emma told them. Christina credits the clear information and patience of the nursing and child life staff with Emma’s unexpected tolerance. “Emma loves structure, so their descriptions for her using IPads worked wonders,” Christina said.
The caring staff of Cincinnati Shriners Hospital made sure Emma was prepared even after she went home. “They actually mailed us extra compression garments [worn to keep scarring to a minimum] over the summer so Emma could go swimming; we didn’t have to ask. Who does that?!” Christina marveled.
Today, Emma is thriving. Though she will need a few more visits, her progress has been excellent. “You don’t know the future,” Christina said of the frightening episode, “but today Emma can run all the way around the track at her school! The nurses at Cincinnati Shriners Hospital always made her feel special, so she knows she can do whatever she sets out to do.”
Shriners Hospitals for Children—Cincinnati should be the destination for any child who sustains a life-threatening major burn injury. However, even a small burn can become serious if not properly treated—and all children deserve the superior pediatric burn care of Cincinnati Shriners Hospital.
Three-year-old Juliette accidentally touched her family’s glass stove top, sustaining second-degree burns on the palm of her hand. Her mother Jodi immediately rushed her to the local urgent care clinic. After triaging Juliette’s wound, the urgent care staff called Cincinnati Shriners Hospital to set an appointment for further assessment. They were scheduled for the very next day.
Later, Jodi described her first impressions of the pediatric specialty hospital in a Facebook post: “From the moment we walked in, Juliette received the best care,” she wrote, sharing details of the experience, and her amazement at the attentiveness of the nursing staff, both to her and to Juliette. “Nurse Emily asked Juliette questions to get to know her; they made the visit fun for her and were kind and patient.” Jodi recalled that she was taught how to dress Juliette’s injury at home, and given a week’s supplies to care for the burn. “Once her treatment was complete, Emily escorted us down to the clinic area so Juliette could pick out a toy for being so brave!” she shared.
The care a family receives from Cincinnati Shriners Hospital doesn’t end once they walk out the door. A child’s burn injury, whether large or small, is treated with the same thorough and knowledgeable expertise, for the best possible outcome.
“I had been home for one day, and received three calls from the nurses to check on Juliette and schedule her next appointment,” Jodi continued. “I am so thankful for Shriners Hospital and its awesome staff. I have felt such relief knowing Juliette is in the best of hands.”
Hendon is a soft-spoken, polite 17-year old with a quick smile and warm demeanor. A junior at his Plant City, Florida high school, Hendon is a standout in a variety of school activities from wrestling to band, as well as math and science.
Hendon was born with microtia, a congenital deformity where the external ear is underdeveloped. His mother Stephanie recalls worrying about how they would afford the cost of the multiple surgeries necessary to correct the defect. (Often private insurance will not cover what it considers a cosmetic anomaly; microtia correction can cost $20,000 to $30,000.) At a little league game when Hendon was nine, Stephanie voiced her concern to a friend, a fellow nurse with whom she had attended school. Her friend suggested she reach out to Shriners Hospitals for Children.
“Ironically, we had both worked at the Tampa Shriners Hospital, but because that location focuses on orthopedics, I didn’t think of it for Hendon,” Stephanie said. When she discovered that the Cincinnati Shriners Hospital specializes in pediatric plastic and reconstructive surgery, she reached out for an appointment.
Shriners Hospitals for Children—Cincinnati recognizes that serious self-esteem issues can develop when children are bullied or teased for physical differences. Its team of board-certified plastic surgeons can treat a wide array of issues, whether congenital, developmental or acquired, regardless of a family’s ability to pay.
Hendon remembers his first meeting with his surgeon, Brian Pan, M.D., FACS. “As a kid, he explained everything to me so I could understand; he even drew pictures so I knew what was going to happen,” he said.
Ear reconstruction must occur in stages, requiring a series of surgeries to create the ear from rib, skin and cartilage grafts. Hendon has had three surgeries and may need one more.
Stephanie continues to marvel at how, even at age 17, Hendon actually looks forward to his trips to Cincinnati Shriners Hospital. “Everyone here makes him feel special and cared for. It is just the best place.”
Kaj was a healthy 7-month-old boy living with his parents in Evansville, Indiana, until one day in March of 2012 when their world changed forever.
That is when Kaj, strapped in his car seat, was severely burned in an accidental vehicle fire. His father was able to pull him from the fire and rushed Kaj to the nearest emergency room with life-threatening burn injuries.
Because 30% of Kaj’s burns were third degree, the doctors there said he would need to be transferred a burn specialty facility. Even with immediate treatment, they estimated he had 72 hours to live.
Within two hours of the fire, Kaj was on an emergency Life Flight destined for Shriners Hospitals for Children—Cincinnati, where a team led by Kevin Yakuboff, M.D., FACS, FAAPS, stabilized and treated Kaj. Because of the skillful care he received at the Cincinnati Shriners Hospital, Kaj survived the first 72 hours and well beyond. Over the next seven years Shriners Hospital for Children – Cincinnati became a second home for Kaj and his parents. He has had 40 surgeries to treat his injuries, including skin grafts to scar releases.
Nothing could have prepared Kaj and his family for how their lives would change after that day. Finding a “new normal” following the accident took time, but with guidance from his medical team at Cincinnati Shriners Hospital and social worker Donna McCartney, Kaj’s parents have been able to nurture both his physical recovery and his resilience through a childhood different from his peers.
Kaj, now 7 years old, is growing up with a kind heart, magnetic personality and strong spirit. Thanks to the family-centered care at the Cincinnati Shriners Hospital, Kaj parents are confident about his future, and proud to see him grow, thrive and feel comfortable in his own beautiful skin.
Tommy’s family makes its living on the water; in his hometown of Miami, Florida that is not unusual. His relatives worked together on their commercial boat, and when Tommy was old enough he often pitched in to help. One afternoon when he was eight years old, Tommy, his father and uncle were coming home from a day at sea. As they exited the boat, something caused its 300-gallon gas tank to explode. The accident severely injured both men as well as Tommy, who was burned on nearly 40 percent of his body.
Initially all three were treated at a local hospital, but it became clear that Tommy, whose injuries were the most acute, would need specialized, pediatric burn care. He was transferred to Shriners Hospitals for Children—Cincinnati, where he could benefit from its decades of research and expertise in burn treatment.
For the next 13 years, Cincinnati Shriners Hospital became Tommy’s second home. Over the years, he and his parents traveled to Cincinnati from Florida for many additional surgeries, to release scars or receive laser treatments. He learned the names of nearly all his nurses and doctors, and they came to know him for his upbeat, can-do spirit. His family was also able to take advantage of follow-up appointments at semi-annual burn injury clinics held by Cincinnati Shriners Hospital staff at the Shriners’ Tampa hospital, which only treats orthopedic conditions. (Many pediatric burn patients from Florida are treated at the Cincinnati hospital, so these clinics were arranged to ease travel burdens.)
Social worker Lori Boerger had just started at Cincinnati Shriners Hospital when she first became Tommy’s Family Care Manager. “Tommy is a survivor in the broadest sense of the word,” she said. “I remember the first time we met: I was walking past his room, and noticed him with a small board game spread out on his bed. He saw me pass, jumped up and ran to the door, saying, ‘Hey- you want to play?’ He would even initiate conversations with other children who might feel anxious because of his scars. I knew this young man was going to be OK.”
Recently, Tommy returned to the hospital for one final release surgery before turning 21. While there, he made sure to see the people who had become like family to him, including his doctor, Cincinnati Shriners Hospital Chief of Staff Petra Warner, M.D. “She was almost like a second mother to me,” Tommy shared. “This trip was my first without my parents, and I was a little nervous. But Dr. Warner explained the procedure to me like I am an adult and I could tell by her face, she felt it was the right treatment for me.”
Tommy’s courageous spirit continues to be an inspiration. He plans to join the Coast Guard where he can serve his country and nurture his love of life on the water.
Six-year-old Reagan and her family are from a suburb of Cincinnati, so it was an adventure for parents Erin and Ryan to pile her, her three siblings and several cousins into the family car for an end-of-summer camping trip near Columbus, Ohio.
That evening, after a dinner of hot dogs and s’mores cooked over a campfire, the happy crew played nearby before heading to their tents for the night. Ryan is a firefighter, so Reagan and the other children were well versed in fire safety rules. However, twilight made it difficult to see the metal fire ring that encircled the smoldering hot coals. Reagan stumbled and fell into the ring and on the embers, receiving second and third-degree burns to the back of both legs.
Ryan grabbed her immediately and went straight to the nearest local hospital. “It all happened in a flash,” he recalled of the event. Once treated, the nurse asked where they would like to take Reagan for continuing treatment. Erin immediately requested Shriners Hospitals for Children—Cincinnati; she had a friend whose daughter had been recently treated for a coffee scald and knew it was the best destination for pediatric burns. They had an appointment two days later.
“With four children, we have had bumps, bruises and even stitches, but we never experienced anything like we did with Reagan’s accident,” Erin said. “I never knew how horrible burns were; how even the simple act of cleaning the wound causes excruciating pain. We are so grateful for what Shriners did for us.”
Fortunately, Reagan’s injuries were relatively mild and the family only had to make a few visits over a two-week period. Nevertheless, the kindness and superior care they experienced at Cincinnati Shriners Hospital stayed with them months after Reagan’s wounds had healed.
So when the holidays rolled around, Erin, who is a teacher at their area middle school, asked her students to gather donations for the hospital rather than gifts for her. They did not disappoint. Shortly after the holidays, Ryan delivered a large cart filled with games, books and craft items for other patients to enjoy. “It isn’t nearly enough to say thank you for all the wonderful work Shriners Hospitals do,” Erin said, “not only for our daughter Reagan, but for so many families across the country.”
Josie is an active 7th grader who enjoys soccer, basketball and competitive swimming. She is also bright and inquisitive, so when cabin fever set in on the week’s second sub-zero “snow day,” Josie decided to see for herself whether hot water tossed in the air would freeze, as she and her friends had seen on social media.
Her first attempt, using hot water from a single-cup coffee maker, was unsuccessful. Undeterred, she boiled water in a saucepan and took it to the back yard. She tried to swing the heavy pan out and in front of her, but the scalding water went straight up, coming down on her head and face.
Her mother Nikki correctly placed cool compresses on the burn area, but when pain persisted, she took Josie to the local pediatric hospital. There they recommended that Shriners Hospitals for Children—Cincinnati would be the best place for treatment.
Fortunately, Josie had only sustained 1st degree burns, which cause redness, pain and minor blistering, so she was treated and released that afternoon. Even small burns can become more serious if not treated properly. Cincinnati Shriners Hospital, and its half-century of superior pediatric care, is the right destination for nearly any burn, no matter the severity.
Josie and her mother Nikki were happy to share their story, especially during Burn Awareness Week, to remind others of the dangers of scalding water.
Landon was burned by hot water in a kitchen accident, injuring his left hand and arm. Fortunately, he is receiving treatment at Shriners Hospitals for Children—Cincinnati, one of the country’s only freestanding pediatric burn treatment facilities and a premier destination for burn recovery.
Treating a major burn is a complicated process. In addition to the threat of infection, third degree burns must be treated with skin grafts taken from undamaged areas of the patient’s body. As both the injured and the graft sites heal, raised scars can develop. Among the weapons in the arsenal of scar management are compression garments, which can smooth scars’ raised appearance.
Cincinnati Shriners Hospital was the first in the 22-hospital system to add an on-site garment sewing room. These garments are not “one-size-fits-all.” Highly trained garment technicians precisely measure and sew each piece to fit a child’s area of treatment, which could mean socks, gloves, vests or even head gear. They must fit very snugly and apply pressure evenly.
Wearing garments consistently is key to successful treatment. However, because the child must keep them on for 23 hours a day, often for a year or more, compliance can be difficult. To encourage young patients to wear their garments, our hospital technicians speak with each child, and then customize the pieces to reflect their interests and personality. In Landon’s case, he clearly loves Superman, but even without a cape, Landon is a super hero to us!
Once he graduates from compression garments, Landon can be treated with state-of-the-art laser therapy so the appearance of his scars continues to improve.