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Theresa Encourages Kitchen Safety

Eleven-year-old Theresa, fueled by her love for cooking, took on the challenge of frying chicken alone.

Her kitchen joy turned into a nightmare when scalding oil splashed onto her hand, causing her to drop the pan. The boiling oil cascaded over her arm and foot, inflicting severe third- and fourth-degree burns, plunging her into excruciating pain.

Third-degree burns are among the most serious burn injuries. They destroy all layers of the skin and may even extend beyond into muscle. This type of injury can be deceptively painless because nerve endings are destroyed. Fourth-degree burns are the highest degree of burn. They affect all layers of the skin and extend into muscles, tendons and even bone.

As shock began to set in, Theresa’s grandpa rushed her to the hospital. She was later transferred to the Neil Reitman Pediatric Burn Institute at Shriners Children's Northern California in Sacramento. Shriners Children’s Northern California has the region’s only dedicated pediatric burn program verified by the American Burn Association and the American College of Surgeons. The hospital is equipped to treat burn injuries of all degrees. From life-threatening burns to the smallest fingertip scald, the burn program’s internationally recognized team of surgeons and plastic surgeons work alongside dedicated caregivers to provide the care and rehabilitation children need.

Shriners Children’s Northern California became Theresa’s home away from home while she healed and recovered.

The staff here care for me and love me. I met a lot of other kids going through medical procedures here too.
Theresa, Shriners Children's Northern California patient

Learning and Growing

That day, Theresa gained a crucial insight: Despite her passion for cooking and independence, it is essential for an adult to supervise children in the kitchen at all times. “I wish I had asked for help,” said Theresa, reflecting on that fear-filled afternoon. “I now know the importance of asking an adult to handle the stove and boiling foods. I hope other kids and parents will hear my story and think twice before attempting to cook alone.”

Theresa hopes her message reaches other families around the world, not only to raise awareness about burn prevention, but also to shine a light on the important work Shriners Children’s Northern California’s burn physicians and nurses are doing to help patients like her.

“The staff here care for me and love me,” said Theresa. “I met a lot of other kids going through medical procedures here too.”

Despite this terrifying incident, Theresa has not lost her passion for cooking and making delicious meals for her family. Now, Theresa is transforming her frightening experience into a source of inspiration, encouraging other families to be burn aware, especially in the kitchen.

“If I had one wish, I would wish that nothing bad like this ever happens to anyone,” she said. “I hope that anyone reading this will consider giving just $1 to the hospital because I love Shriners Children’s, and how well they are taking care of me.”

Be Burn Aware

The kitchen is the most common place in the home for burn injuries. Here are a few kitchen safety tips:

  • Never let children cook alone or unsupervised in the kitchen.
  • Turn pot and pan handles toward the back of the oven top and place on back burners, out of reach of children.
  • Wear short sleeves or roll up sleeves when cooking.
  • Keep something, such as a lid or cookie sheet, nearby to cover a pan if it catches fire.
  • Quickly remove any clothing or fabric that is covering a burn.
  • Never apply anything on a burn other than cool, running water.
  • Seek medical attention right away.

Preventing Burn Injuries: A Commitment From Medical Leaders

Shriners Children’s medical leaders are committed to burn prevention and have gathered data to inform decision-making on the following various issues:

  • Safe packaging for convenience foods, such as instant soup, to reduce the number of in-home burns
  • Support for the use of residential sprinklers to decrease risks from home fires
  • Reduced burn risks from more fire-safe cigarettes
  • Developing burn first-aid and treatment training programs for major employers

Theresa's Journey

Theresa has transformed her frightening experience into a source of inspiration, encouraging other families to be burn aware, especially in the kitchen.

Female patient standing next to mother, father and sister

Theresa poses with her grandparents and sister.

Physician examining burns on hands of patient

Dr. Romanowski examines Theresa during her outpatient clinic visit.

Patient cooking on stovetop

Theresa enjoys cooking.

Next Steps

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