Hometown: Chippewa Falls, Wis. (formerly, Turlock, Calif.)
Condition: Severe burn injuries
Abby was 8 years old when she tripped and landed knee-deep in hot ashes while playing with her brother on the family farm in Turlock. The heat burned Abby’s sandals off her feet, causing third-degree burns on her feet and ankles. She also suffered second-degree burns on her hands.
Doctors referred Abby to Shiners Hospitals for Children — Northern California, where she spent the entire month of September under the care of Dr. David Greenhalgh and the burn team. Her care included surgeries to graft skin from her back to her feet and ankles, physical and occupational therapy, child life therapy and psycho-social support. During her hospital stay, Abby attended the Northern California Shriners Hospital school to keep up with her studies.
“I had occupational therapy to learn how to use my hands again, and I had physical therapy to learn how to walk again,” says Abby, adding that the child-life therapist and psychologist helped her process the trauma and accept her new circumstances.
Abby’s care at the Northern California Shriners Hospital in Sacramento continues today. Even though a job opportunity prompted the family to relocate to Wisconsin, Abby travels back to California to continue her care with the medical team that changed her life.
“Since the accident, I now have more compassion for people with disabilities. I understand personally that looks aren’t everything. As a teenage girl it can be difficult not to give in to pressures of peers and beauty. I believe my experience has given me a maturity to see beyond surface beauty,” says Abby, who has turned her experience into an opportunity to help others.
Abby ran a 10K race to raise money for the Northern California Shriners Hospital and organized a pizza fundraiser in conjunction with the 2014 Super Bowl that prompted the newspaper in her Wisconsin hometown to share her story. At school,she is active in a peer counseling group, offering support to other students who have encountered traumatic experiences.
“As parents, we have been thankful for the relief of financial burden and the ability to focus on the emotional aspect of recovery,” says Abby’s mother Janine. “Shriners (Hospitals for Children) has inspired our family as a whole to give back to others.”