Six-year-old Addison Moman, dressed in a brand new party dress, stockings and white sandals, was the belle of the ball yesterday at the 14th annual Burn Survivor Sunday at UPMC Mercy.
The event is held annually to allow former burn patients and their families to celebrate their survival and share experiences. It's also a time for burn unit staffers to reunite with some of their patients in a happier setting than the one in which they met.
"It's nice to see that we played a part in their rehabilitation," said Jacqueline McClung, a registered nurse in the trauma and burn unit at Mercy who stopped in at the celebration.
For Addison, who was among about 25 burn survivors to attend the event, it was a day to color, visit, wear a "super, super, super crazy balloon hat" and eat treats.
Despite the bitter cold and snowy weather, Addison and her family came from East Palestine, Ohio, where she is in first grade.
She barely sat still during the 90-minute event, floating from activity to activity, refusing even to take time to tell people the story of her accident or to hang around very long with the nurses who cared for her during her stay in the hospital burn unit.
But no one seemed to mind since the bubbly, robust-looking little girl of yesterday was a stark contrast to the baby who was burned over 43 percent of her body and spent six months in the burn center following her accident.
Addison's extensive burns on her head, back and face happened after she pulled a deep fryer filled with hot grease down on herself.
"The first time I saw her [after the accident], she was two to three times her normal size from all of the swelling," Bobbi Jo Moman said of her daughter.
She has undergone numerous reconstructive surgeries including skin grafts and has some artificial skin on her back, her mother said. And, to heal scarring, she had to wear a pressurized suit that covered most of her body for more than two years after she was discharged from the hospital.
Other than slight scarring on her cheek, there weren't any outward signs of her trauma yesterday. But her mother said she is still undergoing treatment that will allow her hair to grow back.
After she recovered, Addison was left with hair on only one side of her head because the hair follicles on the other side were burned.
Yesterday, Addison was wearing a custom-made wig that allowed her real hair to be pulled through on one side and artificial hair to cover the other side.
Next month she'll fly to Miami, where a plastic surgeon has been donating his services to expand her scalp so that skin with hair follicles will cover her entire head.
Despite the numerous surgeries she's had, Addision's activities are not restricted and she lives her life with full gusto, her mother said.
"There is nothing that she can't do," Mrs. Moman said. "She is very self-confident."
Mary Niederberger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-851-1512.