After spending nearly a month in Memorial Hospital’s Grossman Burn Center, 3-year-old Carlos Sanchez received a cheerful send-off Wednesday morning from hospital staff and the Bakersfield Fire Department.
Sanchez was admitted to the center April 6 after receiving third-degree burns along his stomach and back, when his shirt caught fire after he got too close to an outdoor fire pit at a home his family was renovating in Kern County.
Carlos’ mother, Raquel Sanchez, wanted to use her son's story as an educational tool for the community, according to Memorial Hospital spokeswoman Jessica Neely.
“What I can say to parents is, please watch your kids everywhere they go,” Raquel Sanchez said. “Accidents can happen when you just open and close your eyes. We’re blessed and happy that he's is fine and we’re ready to go home.”
The Sanchez family is from Paramount in Los Angeles County, and being far from home made things even more trying for Carlos. His mother said the family wasn't familiar with Bakersfield at the time of the incident.
“I’m so happy and excited to have all of (the Bakersfield) nurses and firefighters that assisted (Carlos) here to congratulate him,” Raquel Sanchez said.
Adding strain to the circumstances were the hospital's visitation restrictions because of COVID-19 precautions.
“We first have to consider that we’re removing (young burn victims) from their routine,” said Amber Lizotte, nurse manager at Memorial's burn unit. “During this time, we removed him from his family because his parents couldn’t both come to visit because we have to limit visitors right now, so that makes things emotionally different.”
According to Lizzote, Carlos underwent treatments such as hydrotherapy and surgeries to prepare him for burn grafts. She said changing bandages and protective garments are usually some of the most difficult procedures for burn victims.
Bakersfield Fire Department Deputy Chief Trever Martinusen was on hand Wednesday to cheer on Carlos. Martinusen also gave the child and his father a chance to sit in the front seat of a BFD fire engine.
Martinusen has been involved in Carlos' recovery process from the get-go, and will continue to be moving forward.
“This is such an accomplishment. This little guy just fought through,” Martinusen said. “It’s full-circle. We’re on the 911 call, and then we’re part of supporting the hospital through the recovery and then at some point in a couple of years, we’re going to be calling Carlos and tell him how important it is to go to burn camp.”
Martinusen wanted to emphasize child safety from burns by hammering home multiple points: don’t play with matches; take preventative measures to avoid scald burns; and ensure that campfires are completely put out.