Byrne, 7, suffered severe burns while helping her mother cook

Courtesy of Nora Gracia

  • Nora Gracia is a 43-year-old mother in Crosby, Texas.
  • Her 7-year-old son, Jaden, burned himself removing a bowl of water from the microwave.
  • This is Gracia’s story as told to Lauren Crosby Medlicott.

This narrative essay is based on a conversation with Nora Gracia, Jaden’s mother. It has been edited for length and clarity.

After a day outside in August, my 7-year-old son Jaden and I went inside the house so I could start making dinner.

While Jaden watched TV in the living room, I chopped up some potatoes and carrots, put them in a bowl of water, and put them in the microwave to cook while I went outside to do the laundry.

As I was washing outside, I heard a knock on the door. I said to get out but the pounding continued. When I opened the door Jaden was there and very calm – not even crying. He said he set himself on fire. I thought it must have been just a small burn as I couldn’t see anything and he didn’t seem to be in any pain.

He pointed to his chest and I told him we would take it off to see. When I took his clothes off, the skin underneath just fell off.

When I went into shock, he seemed to snap out of his, suddenly told me that he was in pain. He said his leg hurt. He said his private parts hurt. And when I pulled down his pants and underwear, the skin just peeled off.

I put it in a tub of cold water

I started to panic. I did not know what to do. I immediately thought of how on cooking shows they tell you to pour cold water over food to stop the cooking process. So that’s what I did. I put him in a cold bath, then wrapped him in a towel and drove him to the nearest emergency room.

Apparently, as Jaden told me, he heard the microwave beeping and thought he’d like to help mom with dinner. He climbed onto the counter to reach the microwave, and as he grabbed the bowl, the boiling water shot down his body.

I just felt completely helpless as I tried to think of ways to make the pain go away. I couldn’t just give him Tylenol to make him better.

When we got to the emergency room, they gave him morphine and immediately cleaned and bandaged his wounds. They told me they couldn’t treat his burns and would transfer him to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital – the only pediatric burn program in Houston.

Jayden Buccio is in the hospital recovering.
Courtesy of Nora Gracia

In Houston, doctors said they would scrub all his burns to make sure he didn’t get infections. I was scared of how much this would hurt him, but they told me they were sedating him for 30 minutes to scrub him out.

They asked if I wanted to participate in the scrub and I declined. But I realized I forgot my phone so I had to go back to the room while they were scrubbing and when I did I saw the burns on his private parts and I was scared because they looked clear to me. The nurse came to me and assured me that private ones heal very quickly. Of course, the next day the healing process had already begun.

The hospital is using new technology on it

During his treatment at the hospital, I was asked if I wanted Jaden to have skin grafts or a new technology called epidermal autograft. She explained that with epidermal autotransplantation, they will take a small sample of skin and place it in a solution that will later be sprayed all over the body. Recovery time would be faster and they wouldn’t have to use large chunks of his “good” skin, so I went with that option.

The other advantage of epidermal autografts is that I didn’t have to change any dressings at home, so after a week it was wrapped and we went home to resume life.

The first thing he wanted at home was his accordion, he had told my husband. He said he has a plan to play without getting hurt.

“I’ve been planning it all along,” he said. “You can put pillows on my legs and chest and my accordion won’t touch me.”

Music really helped him recover. He plays every day. His teachers call him a prodigy.

In November, just three months after the accident, he was finally allowed to play again at halftime and during physical education. He’s doing really well. And I’m glad to see him myself again.

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