A Touch Goes a Long Way: Gloria Shares Her Story in Hopes of Inspiring Others
It was a typical holiday season for Gloria and her family.
They spent Christmas morning opening presents, and enjoying time with one another over the next few days in anticipation of celebrating the upcoming New Year.
Gloria, then 6 years old, said she remembers the morning of her accident vividly, and that it started just like any other day. Her cousin invited her to play outside. Initially, she was hesitant about going out into the frigid Louisiana air, but decided to go anyway to escape the sounds of her mom cleaning the house inside.
Having recently watched her family burn the trash from their Christmas wrappings, as many of her neighbors did too, and shivering from the cold, Gloria and her cousin decided to make a fire to get warm. To get the fire started, they thought to use gasoline they found on the family’s property. Gloria recalls the can being full and very heavy, and while pouring the gasoline into an empty container, spilling some on her hands and wiping it on her dress.
Then, in the process of pouring gas onto the fire, she dropped the can. She recalls, “I just flew up in flames,” and went on to say, “I don't even remember the pain.” Gloria and her cousin both stood there in shock for several moments, watching the flames engulf the lower half of her little body.
Her cousin finally ran inside to get Gloria’s mom, who immediately began patting her down to extinguish the fire. Gloria was then rushed to a hospital in Baton Rouge, but her injuries were too severe and she was swiftly taken to Shriners Children’s Texas via a life flight helicopter.
Because of the severity of her pain, Gloria was placed into a medically induced coma and was unable to communicate with her family. Her mom, Michelle, recalled what it was like, and her ensuing “emotional journey” while their baby girl was being treated at Shriners Children’s. “It was very hard with me just by myself with her,” she said. “We went through a lot of ups and downs.”
Michelle credits the staff at Shriners Children's, that she now calls family, for helping her through the toughest parts of Gloria’s recovery. “Her nurse just kept telling me ‘a touch goes a long way,’” she said, “and that stuck with me.” “That was what got me through being able to see her like that,” her mom recalled about her time in the coma.
I love my surgeries. I'm not scared of them. I used to be, but I'm comfortable now because of this hospital, because of the doctors, because of the people.
Gloria remained in intensive care for a month, and sustained burns on nearly 50% of her body, including her left arm, stomach, and her legs. For several months and years since, Gloria has returned to Shriners Children's for physical therapy and reconstructive care. “I love my surgeries,” Gloria boasted. “I'm not scared of them. I used to be, but I'm comfortable now because of this hospital, because of the doctors, because of the people.”
Inspired by her family’s experience during her care at Shriners Children’s, Gloria started a Christmas donation drive while she was still in elementary school for families receiving care at Shriners Children's. Over the years, she has shared her story with classmates and teachers, and managed to collect stuffed animals, books, toys and toiletries to assist and bring comfort to patients and their families while they are away from home during such a critical time. She and her family personally drop these items off at the hospital every year.
Now 15, Gloria enjoys spending part of her summer at Camp David, hosted by the Texas Burn Society in Kerrville, Texas. The camp allows her to share her story and help inspire other children who are burn survivors. Gloria hopes to write a book one day so her story can help others, especially other burn survivors. “I want them to know that they don't need to be shy, and ashamed or scared, or feel uncomfortable. I just want them to enjoy being themselves, just as they are.”