Stannie Olsen's big blue eyes don't sparkle like they did two weeks ago, and she protectively withdraws her arms when a stranger - especially one draped in medical garb - approaches.
Nurses and doctors represent pain to the 20-month-old girl, whose glow was dulled this week by medication - Valium administered to relax her before she was wheeled into the surgical suite at the University of Utah Hospital. There Dr. Jeffrey R. Saffle took grafts from her groin to replace the torched skin on her hands.Stannie's summer fun abruptly ended May 14 when, during a family outing, she fell into a smoldering barbecue pit. Her home away from her Kearns house became the Intermountain Burn Center at the U. Medical Center, where each spring and summer a rash of people are treated for serious seasonal burns.
Many victims are children whose first introduction to fire is a barbecue pit or grill.
"Every year there is a new crop of kids, 12 to 20 months old, who don't know about fires," said Saffle, center director. "The first barbecue of the year is the time when kids are prone to be injured because they don't know the dangers."
He said parents cannot watch a child too closely. It only takes a second for an accident to occur, and years to get over a horrendous injury - if ever.
No one knows that better than Reed and Gayla Olsen, Stannie's parents, who have suffered hours of guilt because their baby escaped their sight for a mere second.
Since Stannie's hands were scorched by charcoal briquettes during a camping trip to Skull Valley, her parents have spent their days taking their child to either the burn center or pediatrician's office for treatment.
At home the responsibility has been theirs. To the anguish of their daughter, they cleaned the open wounds every eight hours, keeping them free of blisters and loose skin. But despite their diligence, the hands didn't heal, and Stannie was hospitalized for surgery - the first step of a lengthy and difficult rehabilitation.
Marilyn Groussman, center social worker, said that after five days of bed rest with her arms held very still, Stannie will undergo extensive, painful physical therapy.
"Because babies can't do it themselves, parents have to open and close their hands - flex and extend," Groussman said. "That takes a lot of work for the parents, who basically are told, in effect, to hurt their children."
That painful process continues for a year or more, with patients being carefully followed by the Intermountain Burn Center staff.
"We treat anywhere from 200 to 225 acute burns each year and a third are children," said Lynda Faldmo, center head nurse. They see a lot of bad burns from the sun, propane tanks, charcoal lighters, irons, bathtubs, ovens and curling irons. Electrical burns caused by youngsters climbing power poles and burns suffered when children remove hot liquids from microwave ovens are also common.
They have already treated a number of burns from campfires and barbecues this year.
"The kids are attracted to the flames, and toddling around, can trip and fall on a log or rock," Groussman said. "Parents who are ordinarily very careful and conscientious just don't realize it just takes a split second looking the other way for the child to fall into the fire.
"But the long-term effects are horrendous. In just seconds a child's life is changed."