Sacramento doctors begin to treat Mexico fire victims
SACRAMENTO (AP) – Doctors at a Northern California hospital have begun what they say will be months of treatment for three toddlers who were badly injured in a fire that killed 42 infants and toddlers at a Mexican day care.
A 3-year-old boy who suffered burns over about half his body was scheduled to undergo skin graft surgery Sunday at Shriners Hospitals for Children Northern California in a procedure that was to last up to 4 hours.
Hospital spokeswoman Catherine Curran would not say whether the operation was successful.
The boy and a 3-year-old girl who suffered burns over more than 80 percent of her body remained in critical condition as a third child was flown to Sacramento for treatment.
The latest survivor is a 2-year-old boy who suffered burns on 20 percent of his body. He was in serious condition Sunday night, Curran said.
The children were brought to the hospital by Mexican authorities from Hermosillo, where Friday’s fire occurred. After they were treated for severe swelling that is typical of such injuries, they were expected to undergo a series of operations to receive skin grafts.
“You can imagine we have to take all the burns off down to live tissue, then find skin from another part of their body and cover those areas. When we’re out of skin we will actually take skin from a skin bank and cover them temporarily,” said Dr. David Greenhalgh, chief of burns at Shriners. “It’s a long process for their whole stay.”
He said children typically stay in the hospital about one day for every percentage of burn on their bodies.
“If you can imagine, you lose the main barrier to infection by losing your skin,” Greenhalgh said. “Then we’re constantly fighting sepsis infections, so you have to constantly monitor that.”
The boy was being treated first because he was less seriously injured and was in more stable condition than the girl.
Greenhalgh said the children were awake and able to communicate although they couldn’t talk because they have breathing tubes.
“We give them tons of medicines that help the pain and help them forget,” he said. “We do want them to be able to respond to questions and open eyes.”
The fire at the ABC day care center killed 42 children and injured dozens more.
Shriners officials were waiting to hear whether Mexican officials planned to send any more victims of the fire to the hospital. Greenhalgh said the intensive care unit could probably take up to three more children.
The children were being assessed based on their likelihood of survival; the most seriously injured of those considered likely to live could be sent.
The girl’s father was with her at the hospital on Sunday, where he talked with a group of about 10 people from a Pentecostal church in south Sacramento.
The parishioners from El Sendero De La Cruz church heard about the tragedy on the news and came to offer their support to the families, said church member Claudia Pagan.
The group stood in a circle with their palms outstretched as Lazaro Esparza, another church member, a spirited prayer in Spanish in the hospital lobby.
“We were praying for a miracle. We believe that God can do anything,” Pagan said.