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nouvelles Nouvelles Monday, April 8, 2019 Monday, April 8, 2019 11:22 AM - Monday, April 8, 2019 11:22 AM

L'histoire de Katie

Burn care expertise saves a child's toes

Katie was adopted from an orphanage in China at age 2 1/2 by Kim, a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, police officer with two older daughters. When she was 2 months old, Katie was accidentally scalded in untested bath water, seriously burning her left leg and side. As she grew, Katie's scars caused her leg and foot to become severely contracted. By the time Kim arrived in China, the contraction forced Katie to walk on her heel. Still, Kim wasn't deterred. "I had intended to adopt an infant, but when I met Katie, it just felt right," she said. 

Back in the U.S., Kim brought Katie to a pediatric hospital in Pittsburgh for assessment. When she asked the hospital's plastic surgeon if he was a burn specialist, he responded by saying that the surgery Katie required was a "simple release." Kim consented, but after the procedure, Katie's toes were still contracted to the top of her foot. The surgeon's recommendation was to amputate the toes. "He told me that removing them would provide a more 'aesthetically pleasing foot,'" said Kim. "The next day, I called Shriners Hospitals for Children - Cincinnati for an appointment."   

Kim was very concerned with her daughter's future mobility; she saw Katie struggle with balance and feared she might still need to have toes removed. When she shared the previous surgeon's prognosis, Cincinnati Shriners Hospital Chief of Staff Petra Warner, M.D., FACS, responded, "Oh, please don't let anyone cut off your baby's toes!" Dr. Warner later explained, "In contraction cases, the toes can be pulled out of place, but restoring them usually isn't complicated." 

Kim was thrilled and relieved to hear the news. Dr. Warner proceeded with the surgery, and in a few days when the bandages were removed, Kim remembers being moved to tears. "I don't usually like to use this word, but it was the first time her foot looked 'normal,'" she said. 

Katie is 6 now, and has had seven surgeries, four of which are considered major procedures - two on her foot and two on her left thigh. Pediatric burn injuries nearly always require multiple surgeries to release scar tissue as the child grows. Katie will need additional releases, but because of the specialized burn expertise of Dr. Warner and her team at the Cincinnati Shriners Hospital, Katie kept her toes and can now run and play like any other child.

baby katie after burn injury