Caleb Hamacher, 6, seriously was burned Feb. 11 when a small backyard fire at a home in the 900 block of Primrose Lane in Hinesville flared up after gasoline was used to get it going. Now, a month and a half after the child was taken to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctor’s Hospital in Augusta and listed in critical condition, Caleb is back home with his family.
His grandmother, Charlotte Rodriguez, said doctors expect a complete recovery with virtually no scarring. She called his recovery process a true miracle.
Several friends and family members had gathered and were mingling around the fire when it flashed burned Caleb; his friend, Mason Tiner; and Tiner’s dad, Brian, due to an accumulation of gasoline fumes.
The three victims were flown by LifeStar to the burn center.
Rodriguez said her grandson was put in a medically induced coma during his recovery process. He sustained burns to 31 percent of his body, primarily his hands, chest, arms and face.
"They did a couple of skin grafts on his arms," Rodriguez said. "His burns are pretty much healed. He has a couple of places on his arms that are still healing but the doctors believe those will heal up without any grafts. The grafts went better than expected and he had no grafts at all for his face. His face is like a little sunburn right now and not even real bad sunburn."
Rodriguez credits the burn center’s medical professionals and the 24-hour nursing care Caleb received during his stay in intensive care.
"They were all wonderful, and they made it clear to us they were there for him and not us," she said.
Rodriguez said her family also received community support and help from their extended military family. She said the Army provided the family with a house at Fort Gordon so Caleb’s two siblings could visit their brother on weekends and the immediate family could stay close to the hospital.
"It’s wonderful," she said. "It’s just wonderful. So many friends and friends of friends … people we don’t even know have been so generous and so kind with their words and offers to help. And the First Baptist Church of Hinesville and also the neighborhood there on Fort Stewart have just been wonderful. There are some people that have just done some super things."
Rodriguez said the doctors took their time when bringing the youngster out of his coma.
"And it took about a week to bring him out of the coma and to be able to move and be able to talk," she said. "And he’s a shy little boy to begin with; he needs to get to know you before he talks to you a lot. In the hospital, after he came out of the coma, you would barely get a nod yes or no from him. Or he would say something but not a lot. He didn’t want to walk. He didn’t want to get up and he said it hurt."
However, Rodriguez said, Caleb’s release from the burn center and subsequent homecoming last Sunday seemed to prompt an immediate turnaround.
"When he got to the house he walked through every room of the house," she said. "They built a tree house out in the backyard. His dad helped him up in the tree house, and just the difference in this little boy — it’s unreal. He is walking, he is playing Wii games and other video games and he is just a wonderful little boy. He is back to his normal self, not being the real super-shy kid."
Rodriguez said her grandson will start occupational therapy this week at Winn Army Community Hospital on Fort Stewart.
"He is having therapy because he was immobile for almost a month," she said. "This, too, is a blessing as they do not have a pediatric occupational therapist and usually only work with adults but have decided to work with Caleb after hearing his story."
Rodriguez said her family is blessed to have Caleb back home and grateful for the community support.
"He was bad. It was very bad, but, like I said, we truly believe it was a miracle," she said. "So many people praying — the church and the Army family have been just wonderful. I can’t say enough about them."
The family has been posting updates on Caleb’s progress on a Facebook page: www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Praying-for-Caleb/200383166640317.