Firefighters help burned boy get fresh start

By Mackenzie Ryan

Florida Today

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 20 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

He knows his colors, his shapes. He can tell you the names of different engine parts and tools, which he picked up while helping his dad work on his truck.

"When I look at Isaac, I don't see the scars," Brad said. "I see him as my son."

If only everyone could see that Isaac first, instead of the scars, his family hoped. But children have natural curiosities. He was bound to get unwanted attention.

Earlier, another boy on the playground had approached him. What's wrong with you, the boy asked. Did you get run over?

Isaac doesn't remember the fire that left second- and third-degree burns across 80 percent of his body.

It was March 29, 2009. He was two years old, his sister one. They were asleep when the accident happened.

Fueled by gas being used to remove carpet, flames spread across Isaac's great-grandmother's house in North Carolina, where the family was staying.

Brad pulled Isaac out of the house first. He wasn't breathing; his mother did cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.

Running back inside, Brad pulled his daughter, Lindsay, out next. Then Brad rescued his mother-in-law.

He was about to go back in for his wife's grandmother and sister when the fire department arrived, stopping him.

The two women died.

The Maddoxes moved to Melbourne about three weeks ago. It was time for a fresh start, a new school. But how to make the transition?

The family contacted the Melbourne Fire Department and Sherwood Elementary and explained the situation.

Isaac's teacher Kathy Guerrero started preparing — including clipping a recent Florida Today story and photograph about a 10-week-old kitten that was rescued from a Palm Bay house fire.

The kitten, Khloe, survived the fire, but not without injuries: Her fur was singed to her skin and her eyelids badly burned.

Guerrero's students identified with Khloe; children often relate to animals at that age. And Guerrero made sure to point out that Karen Gibson of the Purrs and Whiskers Shelter in Melbourne was looking at Khloe in the photo — and smiling.

"The lady still liked her," said Isaac's classmate James Peedin, 5, of Khloe. "She's smiling. She wasn't afraid of her."

After firefighters talked with students on Monday, and after Isaac passed out plastic firefighter hats to every kindergartner, Guerrero took Isaac by the hand, leading him to class.

"I love you buddy," his father called out after him.

In the classroom, Guerrero showed Isaac his seat. Instead, he ducked under the table.

Sometimes children are scared, overwhelmed or unsure of the environment, said Hensler, a kindergarten teacher.

As Guerrero led an activity where students were up and out of their chairs, Isaac slowly crawled out from under his desk. Then he was kneeling, then standing.

Soon, it was time to read a story, and Guerrero suggested Isaac sit on the carpeted area with his classmates. "Isaac! Isaac!" a classmate called out. "Come sit by me," another said.

Taking his hand, Guerrero lead Isaac to sit next to James Peedin.

"Do you want me to tell you the letters in my name?" James asked Isaac. "J-A-M-E-S. Do you want me to tell you my last name?"

Isaac smiled. And Guerrero, seeing that he was OK, began the lesson.

"Let's read the title together," she said, the class's attention now focused on the oversized book in her hands. " 'The Picnic at Apple Park.' "

Florida Today: http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20110920/NEWS01/109200302/Teachers-firefighters-help-burned-boy-ease-into-Sherwood-Elementary?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|Home

Information from: Florida Today, http://www.floridatoday.com

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