Skip to navigation

What we're up to

news News Friday, February 8, 2019 Friday, February 8, 2019 11:26 AM - Friday, February 8, 2019 11:26 AM

Teen makes strides to regain independence

Teen makes strides to regain independence

Sixteen-year-old Karen can find inspiration in almost anything. Point to an object in her room and in the most poetic way, she will describe to you the best way to portray it in a painting. The talented teen is not only a remarkable artist – she has always been at the top of her class and has received countless academic awards. She also plays the piano and loves basketball.

From the moment she was admitted to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Houston to receive orthopaedic care, Karen wasted no time and took advantage of every rehabilitation session to ensure she could continue adding to her list of skills.

In early 2018, Karen made an astounding recovery after she sustained severe burns to 85 percent of her body during a gas explosion accident in her home in Mexico City. With the help of Fundacion Michou y Mau, a nonprofit organization that assists children in Mexico with severe burns, Karen’s family was able to have Karen transferred to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Galveston, where she was treated for eight months before transferring to Houston.

“After everything that happened, we knew it was just a blessing to be in Houston and in Galveston,” said Karen’s mother, Erica. “All the attention we received, I can’t imagine any other place doing that for her.”

The road to recovery was anything but easy for Karen. There were complications during initial fittings for her two prosthetic legs, but the Houston Shriners team of doctors, rehabilitation therapists and prosthetists worked to get Karen walking again.

“It’s hard to explain, but at that moment, I felt like I had no strength, I felt weak,” said Karen. “I struggled to maintain my balance, but I did it, I was able to walk.”

During her stay, Karen followed a rigorous rehabilitation schedule, which included physical, occupational and recreational therapy. “The therapists were strict but I appreciate that, because I know they did everything to give me back my independence,” Karen said. “Now I can dance, I can ride a bike and I can take off running. I know that if I fall, I will get up again.”

Karen and her family had a lot to overcome. She lost her older brother, Ricardo, in the same accident, and as they prepared to go back home, both Karen and her mother reflected on a tragic time in their lives and how they could take something positive from it. Karen said she would like to start an organization in honor of Ricardo in the near future. The goal of the organization would be to help those who sustain severe burn injuries to receive proper assistance.

“Our lives changed completely, and it’s still hard to accept sometimes,” Erica said. “It’s going to take time, but when we are ready, we want to be there for others.”

For now, going back to school is on top of the list for Karen. She said she would like to pursue a career in criminology. She also said she wants to continue painting because she finds that it is a great form of expression. The entire student body at her school, friends and family rallied to offer support and awaited her return home. However, Karen said she was most excited about seeing her dog, Gara, again.

“No offense to my human friends, but I miss my dog more than anything,” Karen said.

Karen will continue to have follow-up appointments at the Houston Shriners Hospital. She easily won over the hearts of the Texas staff. Her humor, charisma and genuine compassion were without a doubt a factor in her medical and emotional recovery.

“Every interaction we had, from the doctors to the nurses, to the non-medical staff, was beyond amazing. Both hospitals have supported Karen and we will forever be grateful,” Erica said.

Karen riding a bike for the first time with new prostheticsKaren during prosthetic fitting

Pictured: (top right) Karen holding some of her artwork, (bottom left) Karen riding a bike for the first time with prosthetics, (bottom right) Karen during a prosthetic fitting