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Mother Raises Awareness After Son's Burn Care at Shriners Children’s Boston

Walker’s burn care at Shriners Children’s Boston comes with an important message for families.

The young boy sustained burns to both hands after touching a pellet stove in his New Hampshire house. “It was so sudden. I was standing right there and it just happened so fast. It was over before it even started,” said Walker’s mom, Amanda, who experienced what she described as “immense guilt.” She hopes sharing her son’s story will raise awareness surrounding the dangers of stoves and help ease any guilt parents may feel.

The day Walker was injured is one his mother said she will never forget. “I brought Walker to the emergency room. Medical staff sent pictures to Shriners Children’s Boston and Shriners set up an appointment for Walker.”

He started treatment just before he turned 2. The support Amanda received upon walking into Shriners Children’s Boston with Walker was reassuring. “I felt so much guilt, but everyone told me ‘this is not your fault,’” she said. “Everyone in the hospital was amazing.”

During his initial stay, Walker and his mom were at Shriners Children’s Boston for several days. During that time, Amanda remembers how accommodating her son’s medical team was, especially their social services case manager, Liza Gamelli, LICSW, CCM. “I just started to get really nervous, and Liza was great,” said Amanda. “Walker had to get medication at CVS. I had been to Boston for a Red Sox game with my husband years ago, but never alone. Liza had someone pick up the prescription for us.”

If somebody reads this story and they move into a house with a pellet stove, maybe this can help prevent an injury.
Amanda, Walker's mother

Liza also made sure Walker and his mom had a place to stay during treatment at Shriners Children’s Boston’s family apartments. “For these types of situations where patients need daily care, but live far away, coming back and forth would be a hardship for them,” said Liza. “The apartments are a good resource.” Liza also makes sure parents have their basic needs met when staying at Shriners Children’s Boston. “We check in and acknowledge how chaotic it can be for parents,” Liza said. “We want to know how we can best support them.”

Before leaving Shriners Children’s Boston, medical staff made sure Amanda felt prepared to help her son through his recovery. That included Jess Willoughby, MOT, OTR/L, an occupational therapist. “Jess was there from the beginning and that meant a lot,” Amanda said. “She made me feel better about the situation, and gave me confidence once we were home and changing the bandages on Walker’s hands.”

Jess explained that care at Shriners Children’s Boston is tailored to each child because burn injuries are unique and there are multiple factors that affect healing. She also provides education for families, including in-person demonstrations and handouts. “I try to make the situation less intimidating to the families by letting them know my expectations for wrapping their child’s hand splints,” said Jess. “I always tell families their wrapping doesn’t need to be perfect, as long as it is safe and secured.”

Walker’s mother hopes sharing her family’s experience will be educational for others. “If somebody reads this story and they move into a house with a pellet stove, maybe this can help prevent an injury,” said Amanda. At the time of Walker’s accident, his family was enjoying their second winter in their new house and was not accustomed to having a pellet stove. “If you’ve got young children and you have a wood or pellet stove at home, remember to be completely vigilant.”

walker with bandaged hands on couch with blanket

Walker relaxing on the couch

Shriners Children’s Boston Chief of Staff and Director of Burn Service Robert Sheridan, M.D., said, “Part of our job is to make sure parents understand that even though their child got hurt, it’s not their fault. Even if they could have prevented it, these things happen.” Dr. Sheridan continued, “You know they love their child, and you know they never wanted anything bad to happen, so we just try to alleviate that guilt they sometimes feel.”

Currently, Walker is coming back to Shriners Children’s Boston every three months for treatment. “At our last appointment, the medical staff told us he will be a patient until he is 21, and that was reassuring,” Amanda said.

Lori Connolly, PT, D.P.T., director of therapeutic services at Shriners Children’s Boston, explained that a unique benefit of the hospital is the ability to follow patients through their childhood to provide continuous care. “Since scar tissue does not always function the same as healthy skin, due to decreased elasticity, patients may develop joint or scar contractures as they grow, with this tissue limiting their function or causing changes in the child’s appearance,” she said.

Walker is an active and playful toddler with three older siblings and a dog. He is also a big Mickey Mouse fan. ”He absolutely loves Mickey, even if it's just dancing to all the songs,” Amanda said of her son, who is a joyful little boy. “He likes to snuggle with me, and was even more attached through all of this, which was sweet.”

walker napping on bed

Walker taking a nap

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