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Father Credits Burn Team With Saving Daughter's Life

When she was 3, Lucy came to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Northern California with her life on the line. Doctors at Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, diagnosed her with Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) – a rare disorder of the skin and mucous membranes resulting in burn-like symptoms, including painful rashes that spread and blister. In Lucy’s case, the blistering was severe on her mouth, nose and eyes, putting the future of her eyesight at risk. Lucy’s condition quickly progressed to a life-threatening emergency as the reaction started to attack her lungs. Once she was transferred to the Northern California Shriners Hospital, Chief of Burns David Greenhalgh, M.D., and his team saved her life.

“Thank goodness the doctor at Sutter knew to send her to Dr. Greenhalgh at Shriners [Hospital],” said Lucy’s father, Neal. “I was deployed to Southwest Asia at the time. When I arrived, a nurse referenced a book he had written on the syndrome, and then I met him, and his professionalism and calmness was beyond reassuring. I knew she was in good hands.”

From the moment they walked in the door, Neal and his wife, Kristin, knew their daughter was in the right place. Dr. Greenhalgh, having published extensive research studies in academic journals on treatment for the extremely rare SJS, put a comprehensive care plan in place. Intensive care unit nurses stood by her bedside around the clock, braiding her hair in between bandage changes and engaging in meaningful conversations with her emotionally exhausted parents. Physical therapists remained poised and focused on a full recovery after every procedure. The Northern California Shriners Hospital multidisciplinary burn care model saved Lucy’s life and gave comfort to her parents.

“If we are talking about the care she received in terms of the game of chess, when I was scared and only ready to move a pawn, Shriners was ready to go check mate on the syndrome and give Lucy a full recovery,” said Neal.

Lucy spent 28 days in the burn unit and was healthy enough to make it home for the holidays. The burn team at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Northern California provided the care she needed to save her life and her eyesight.

“Lucy isn’t just alive today because of Shriners Hospitals for Children, she sees because of them,” said Neal.

Today Lucy is a happy, healthy 6-year-old who loves running around with her four siblings, swimming and flipping through gymnastics classes. She never backs down from a good wrestling match with her father and older siblings. There is no fight she cannot win.

“On one hand, it’s the most awful experience I have ever been through, and on the other I got to see the greatest part of humanity there ever is,” said Neal. “Their job is to save the lives of children others may think are beyond saving, the lost causes.”

Shriners Hospitals for Children — Northern California continues to be a leader in pediatric burn care on the West Coast and throughout the world. Lucy is living proof.


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