By SHIRLEY PULAWSKI
OBSERVER Staff Writer
FORESTVILLE - Alana Bates said she and her family have a lot to be thankful for after her son, Bradley, fell into a smoldering burn pit on the night of Aug. 4. He is now home from Shriner's Burn Care in Cincinnati.
OBSERVER Photo by Shirley Pulawski
Bradley Bates sleeps peacefully on the couch now that he is home from Shriner’s Burn Care in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Alana and her husband Jeremy were with Bradley, age 3, and their 1-year-old son at a gathering down the street from their home in Forestville on that Saturday night. Jeremy took the boys home to dress them for bed around 10 p.m. According to Alana, the idea of going to bed did not sit well with young Bradley. As Jeremy was getting their 1-year-old ready, Alana returned home from the gathering.
"I heard screaming," she said, as she entered the house. "Where's Bradley?" she asked Jeremy. In that short time, the screaming had stopped.
"The bathroom door was closed. That's not unusual because he likes to sit in there with a book, and sometimes he's in there for a while. He does that a lot," Alana explained, "but I opened the door and he wasn't there."
Benefit for Bradley Bates
What: Spaghetti dinner to raise money for Bradley Bates' ongoing medical treatment
Where: The Fireman's Club on Jackson Street in Silver Creek
When: Sept. 9 from noon to 5 p.m.
Featuring: Musical entertainment by Sean Patrick McGraw, Gina V and e-da-co Eclectic Dance Company.
Cost: Adults $8 at the door; children 4-7 $6; children under 3 are free. Pre-sale tickets are $1 less and can be purchased at area businesses.
Donations: Accepted at Evans Bank at 25 Main St. in Forestville, NY 14062. Include "In care of Bradley Bates" on checks or money orders
Contact: Michelle at 785-5620 or Tammy at 679-8355 for more information.
The couple began looking for Bradley as panic began to fill their minds.
"He's very, very afraid of the dark. I couldn't imagine that he would have gone outside because he is so afraid of the dark," Alana said, and noted she will forever have questions about what happened that night. "I can only imagine the outside light must have been on ... that maybe an animal walked by and set it on for a few minutes or something. ... I can't imagine why else he would have walked out there ... because he is so afraid of the dark."
Once outside, Alana and Jeremy faced a parent's nightmare: Bradley had been stumbling around in the dark backyard, and fell into a smoldering burn pit set by Jeremy much earlier in the day to dispose of brush he had cleared from their property. Alana speculated Bradley would not even have been able to see the smoldering embers covered by ashes in the dark.
Bradley's burns, which mostly affect his hands, torso, legs and feet, became quickly apparent, and blisters quickly began to form. Bradley began screaming again and thrashing around.
"He was ripping the skin off, and screaming 'I'm scared, mommy, I'm scared!' over and over," Alana recalled from the night.
When the ambulance arrived, Alana explained it was immediately apparent to the first responders his condition would require more specialized attention than what would be available at nearby hospitals.
"They airlifted him from the ballfield right here to Women and Children's (Hospital), but they couldn't handle the extent of his burns, so they sent him to Shriner's in Cincinnati right away."
Skin graft surgery could not begin until after a series of wound cleaning procedures, called debridements, were performed. Alana said these procedures were very painful for Bradley.
"They couldn't give him anything, and they had to really scrub out his skin to make sure there wasn't any dirt or anything in there."
Bradley underwent two debridement procedures before his first skin graft surgery nine days after the accident.
Alana explained the two types of skin graft procedures involved.
"Where the skin turns white, that means the skin is completely dead," she explained regarding the different levels of burn injuries to the skin. "Autografting is where they use his own skin from his back. ... They took about a 4 by 8 inch section from his back ... and used that from his foot up to about his knee.
"The second procedure is called allografting. With that, they take cadaver skin with mesh and stretch it over the burned skin," which she explains helps the skin to heal, but does not fuse into Bradley's own skin. She also explained the cadaver skin does not need to be from a donor with a compatible blood type. "We're Jehovah's Witnesses, so we won't take blood."
The first days were very hard for Bradley and the family.
"He screamed so violently the first few days. ... They had to really scrub his wounds to clean them. ... It wasn't until the second or third day that I saw his burns and just how bad they were. As a mom ... it's something you never want to see. He was red and pink and white all over," she said, but said his wounds are healing nicely.
"We're very lucky his burns aren't any worse," Alana said. "We can second-guess everything about how we could have done things differently, but the reality is that accidents just happen, and sometimes things just happen very quickly ... We never expected this kind of thing to happen to us."
Being at a burn hospital with other parents and survivors is very helpful for the whole family in the recovery process, Alana shared.
"Having people there telling us that it gets better has really helped."
Bradley's treatment will continue for at least a year. He will be fitted with compression garments on his arms, legs, feet and chest. He will need to be re-measured every three months for new compression garments as he continues to grow at his very young age. The garments must be worn 23 hours day when he is not being bathed or undergoing physical therapy (PT).
"Overall, he's in good spirits. He has a hard time walking, and we do PT twice a day. It's not just exercise (to keep the grafts pliable) but the grafts need to be massaged and the wounds need to be bathed once a day."
Bradley, who was nearly asleep next to his mom on the couch, let out an audible groan at the mention of a bath.
"He doesn't like that part of it," Alana explained.
Alana said the family has received a great deal of support from family and friends along with Shriner's Hospital and the charities with which the hospital networks, but costs are mounting and the family is without insurance.
"On Aug. 1, I called our insurance, we had Child Health Plus, to pay the bill. They said I was one day late and his insurance had been canceled," so Bradley was without coverage when the accident occurred.
"Transportation alone is over $30,000," Alana said, and explained they are a one-income family as she is a stay-at-home parent and her husband's work is the family's sole source of income. She said Shriner's and other organizations are helping the family to secure insurance, and charities are helping to cover some costs, but, "The bills are pretty astronomical," Alana conveyed.
Other expenses are involved, such as a new bed for Bradley now that he is home. "With his toddler bed, I was worried he would hurt himself because it's so closed in," Alana said after taking a call from her husband regarding delivery of the new bed.
Friends and family have taken the initiative to help raise money for the family's ongoing expenses. On Sunday, Sept 9., a benefit featuring spaghetti dinner, basket raffles and entertainment by Sean Patrick McGraw and Gina V. The event will be held at the Fireman's Club in Silver Creek from noon to 5 p.m. Tickets are $8 at the door for adults and $6 for children ages 4 through 7. Children under 3 years of age can attend at no cost. Monetary donations are being accepted at Evans Bank at 25 Main St. in Forestville, NY 14062. Please include "In care of Bradley Bates" on checks or money orders. Take-out and discounted pre-sale tickets are available at the bank and other locations. For more information, call Michelle at 785-5620 or Tammy at 679-8355.
Alana said she is very grateful for the community support.
"It's a real blessing to live in a small area," and said her primary goals are to help Bradley heal and to keep family life "as normal as possible" for everyone in it.
"Bradley is going back to day care next week. ... He goes to the Campus and Community Children's Center and they've been just great."
The family also hopes good can come out of their experience.
"I want people to know, to think about things like fires. Make sure they're really out. You have to check on everything. You just don't know when something like this could happen, and it could happen to anybody."
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