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Two young burn victims find hope in tragedy

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Jan. 4, 2016–In the April 12, 2015 edition of Amandala, we told you of the April 3, 2015 tragedy suffered by Katerin Michel Perez, 9 at the time, who was severely burnt after the flammable gasoline used to kill lice in her hair was set ablaze when she passed in front of a lit stove in her family’s kitchen.

Perez, who had received burns to 53% of her body and injuries to her arm, hand and face, was rushed to the San Pedro Polyclinic and then transferred to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital for urgent treatment.

On April 5, Perez was flown out to Shriners Hospital for Children in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, for specialist care. She also received several reconstructive surgeries, and today, we are happy to report that her prognosis is much better.

On October 17, Perez returned to Belize; however, she will be making frequent visits to Shriners Hospital for Children for medical check-ups until she is 21 years old, Yvette Burkes of the Burn Victims Unit Belize told Amandala.

It was the Burn Victims Unit, Belize that connected Perez with Shriners Hospital for Children. Burkes said that sending a patient via air ambulance costs between US$20,000 and US$24,000 and that was covered, by a generous donor. Once those funds were secured, the hospital waived the cost of medical treatment.

Burkes said that Perez has also received therapy, and both she and her mother have received counseling to help Perez cope with her new reality. Unfortunately for Perez, the burns have disfigured her face. Burkes said that there was some damage to Perez’s vision; however she can still see.

Miriam Zaldivar, a family friend, told Amandala that the tips of four of the girl’s fingers on her left hand were burned off and her pinkie finger was completely burned off. On her right hand, the tips of all her fingers were burned off.

Francis Woods, who once suffered burns to 80% of his body, shared: “The biggest challenge for children is dealing with other children who don’t respect and understand the situation and so [they] will tease [about it].”

He added that it is beneficial when these children can meet other children in similar situations, so they will realize that they are not alone.

Burkes said that the Burn Victims Mercy Fund assisted another burn victim this year, Dylan Pop, now 4 years old.


Burkes explained that Pop was one of the Gift of Life patients who were scheduled for a heart surgery; however, they had lost communication with Pop’s parents.

The first time they heard of Pop again, said Burkes, was when he got burned. Pop, whose situation was more complicated, due to his heart condition, was also sent in July 2015 to Shriners Hospital for Children in Boston.

Dr. Philip Chang, the receiving physician at Shriners, said: “The danger for him was that his burn injury placed great demands on his heart, which was working at its maximum.”

Pop received treatment for his burn injuries from Shriners, and then he was transferred to Tuffs Medical Center for surgery for his heart defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot.

According to Mayo Clinic’s website, “Tetralogy of Fallot is a rare condition caused by a combination of four heart defects that are present at birth. These defects, which affect the structure of the heart, cause oxygen-poor blood to flow out of the heart and to the rest of the body. Infants and children with tetralogy of Fallot usually have blue-tinged skin because their blood doesn’t carry enough oxygen.”

Dr. Michael of Tuffs Medical Center, the heart surgeon who attended to Pop, said: “Normally humans have an oxygen saturation of about 95%, but in Pop’s case, his oxygen saturation was approximately 60%.”

The surgery restored normal blood flow to Pop’s lungs; however, the procedure to correct the problem caused him to become ill, since his lungs were not used to the new adjustment.

Pop had to be placed on a ventilator to battle fluid leaks and infections for nearly a week, Dr. Michael said.

On October 7, 2015, Pop, returned to Belize in good health; however, he will also need to make periodic follow-up visits to Shriners Hospital.

Anyone wanting to help or contribute to the cause for Katerin Perez or Dylan Pop can contact Yvette Burkes of the Burn Victims Mercy Fund at 610-3890.

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