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Newborn burned in incubator recovering at home, family says

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — The parents of a newborn burned in a fire in his incubator said he’s sleeping and eating normally, and his only pain medication is Tylenol. But they still don’t know the long-term prospects for his recovery.

"His face has healed up pretty well," said Melissa Werth, 27, the mother of 6-week-old Maverick Werth. "He’s doing as well as can be expected with what happened."

On Jan. 22, Maverick was injured when a fire mysteriously erupted under a plastic oxygen dome that covered his head as he slept in the nursery at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids. He was rushed to Hennepin County Medical Center with second- and third-degree burns, and stayed there until his parents brought him home on Feb. 10.

Doctors aren’t sure if the boy will need skin grafts, said his dad, Justin, 28. "We really don’t know a whole lot, just because there’s no precedent for it," he said. "He was the youngest patient they ever dealt with with this severity of burns."

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A few hours after he was born, the Werths were going to visit him, but the entry to the nursery was blocked.

"They said they were doing a procedure and we couldn’t go in," Melissa Werth said. "I had a feeling," she said, that it was Maverick. She told her husband: "It’s our son that they’re working on."

Soon a doctor arrived to tell them there had been an accident.

"When they came in, I thought he was dead," Melissa Werth said. "When they told us he was alive, that part was a relief."

Then they heard what had happened. Maverick was born three weeks premature, and was receiving oxygen because of a breathing problem. Hospital officials said the fire erupted spontaneously inside the oxygen hood, and that two nurses put out the flames immediately.

"It was terrible," Melissa Werth said. "No parent should have to see their kid burned."

Justin Werth said Maverick nearly died the first day. Doctors said he would have died if he’d inhaled the smoke, but his lungs were not damaged.

Maverick remained in a drug-induced coma for several days and gradually began to heal, the Werths said. The Werths, who also have a three-year-old daughter, felt he turned the first corner about 10 days after the accident, when doctors were able to remove his breathing tube.

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Today, the worst scarring remains on Maverick’s right hand and his shoulders, with fainter scars on his chin and upper lips. Doctors are worried he may have trouble moving his arms and hands because of scarring, and the Werths said they are meeting with plastic surgeons to evaluate his care.

The cause of the fire is still unknown. Officials at Allina Hospitals and Clinics, which owns Mercy Hospital, said they have hired national experts to test all the equipment that may have contributed to the fire.

Chris Messerly, the family’s lawyer, said the investigation could take time.

"We’ll get the answers as to what caused it and when we do, we’ll let the whole world know, so it doesn’t happen again," he said.

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