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news News Thursday, June 6, 2019 Thursday, June 6, 2019 11:45 AM - Thursday, June 6, 2019 11:45 AM

Demetrice's story

Burned as a small child, a young man returns to thank those who helped him heal

Demetrice's story

In 1993, 3-year-old Demetrice and his 4-year-old sister were with a sitter when a devastating fire broke out in their home. His recollection of the night is a combination of a toddler’s memory and the stories he has heard from others. “The babysitter gave us baths and put us to bed. While my mom was at the store, someone told her our house was on fire. When she got home, there were fire trucks and ambulances.”

Demetrice remembers hiding under the bed with his sister, him lying on top of her. “I guess I shielded her from the fire, because she just had small burns on her hands,” he said. Demetrice was not as fortunate. He received third degree burns on 75 percent of his body, a devastating injury. “They say I passed twice, and they brought me back.”

Now almost 29, Demetrice recently stopped into Shriners Hospitals for Children — Cincinnati, where he spent much of his childhood having multiple surgeries to graft wounds and release contracted skin. He is a young man still seeking answers, and a way to give back for the many kindnesses he remembers from the staff. “I originally came to get my [clinical] pictures, and then I thought I’d like to talk to some of the teenagers, to help them through,” he said. Adults who were burned at a very young age often seek their clinical photos to try to make sense of the path their lives have taken. “People there always came around to brighten our days,” he recalled of his year-long stay at the Cincinnati Shriners Hospital. “I appreciated that.”

Cheryl Dahling, a Cincinnati Shriners Hospital child life specialist, worked with Demetrice, or “Meety,” as they called him when he was a young patient. She remembers him as a quiet boy who worked hard to regain his mobility. “Nothing would stop him,” she remembered. “We got him a toy microphone and he would walk up and down the halls singing Whoomp – There It Is. It became part of his physical therapy!”

Today, music is still a big part of Demetrice’s life. In addition to working in construction, he writes and records music in his own studio. He also hopes to get involved with SOAR, a youth mentoring group for burn survivors, to let them know that there is life beyond the scars.

Demetrice with two staff membersDemetrice as a child