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Nebraska siblings recover after burn incident

BEATRICE, Neb. (AP) — Tears stream down the little boy's face. It happens whenever he walks into an office or a building that resembles a doctor's office.

"He cries whenever he goes to doctor," explains the little boy's mother, Lisa Cogill. "He's afraid someone is going to poke or prod his owies."

Albert Cogill, two-years-old, suffered burns over 80 percent of his body in a tragic August accident. A pot of boiling water fell on top of Albert and his two sisters in their Barneston home.

Albert, Baby Bubba as his family and friends call him, took the brunt of the damage. His twin sister Abiggail suffered burns on 16 percent of her body while bigger sister Debbie, 4, had burns on 10 percent of her body.

The girls' burns suffered second degree burns and were released from the hospital within three days.

Their burns are hardly visible now. Baby Bubba's recovery, however, has been much more difficult.

The accident happened in an instant. Lisa, a mother of six, works an overnight shift. Her 12-year-old daughter Victoria took it upon herself to start preparing supper for the family that evening. She put a pan of water on the stove and went to the bathroom.

"Debbie thought she wanted to look into the pan of water, so she opened the oven door," Lisa said. "She stood on the door and it flipped, hitting (Baby Bubba) in the back of the head."

Baby Bubba spent a total of 56 days in the hospital and nearly died twice. The worst of his burns are on his back down past his bottom, his right leg and his hands.

His first 26 days were spent at the burn unit at Saint Elizabeth's Regional Medical Center in Lincoln. Lisa slept in a chair next to his bed and never left his side.

"The first 26 days were the worst," Lisa said. "I couldn't help him and I didn't know how bad he was. He was in a giant bandage at all times. He would tell me owie, and I couldn't help him."

She said it became even more difficult for Baby Bubba when his sisters went home, because he had never been separated from them for very long, especially from his twin, Abiggail.

The healing process was long and painful.

Doctors in Lincoln began by excising Baby Bubba's skin, removing all the burned skin and preparing him for future grafts.

Because of Baby Bubba's small size and the fact that he had lost a lot of blood, things quickly went downhill. He experienced kidney failure and began swelling up.

"He just kept looking at me funny, and all night long his oxygen level would go down and his eyes were swollen," Lisa said. "I knew something wasn't right."

The next morning doctors decided to incubate him, forcing a tube down his throat to help him breathe. That's when Lisa started looking into the Shriners' Children's Burn Hospital in Cincinnati.

A local Shriner had told her about it and offered to help make arrangements. Soon the family flew Baby Bubba to Cincinnati, where he would remain for another 30 days.

Doctors in Cincinnati took Baby Bubba off the incubator, but he was unable breathe. They determined that his wind pipe had become curved, so they put another tube down his throat to heal the top of his airway.

After several days, Baby Bubba was able to breathe on his own.

At the same time, much to the delight of doctors, Bubba's skin cells were growing back.

His body healed to the point where he only needed skin grafts on 4.5 percent of his body — a small amount compared to the 80 percent doctors had originally prepared to graft.

"His body healed itself that much," Lisa said. "He'll probably have to have some additional grafts later on to stretch his scar tissue, and he has a little toe that might need surgery pretty soon, but he's come a long ways."

Baby Bubba still experiences significant itching and some pain and is taking medication. He also wears a full body pressure suit and a pressure glove for his hand.

"The itching is terrible, so we rub him down with lotion and do massage therapy twice a day," Lisa said. "He's been back to Cincinnati three times since his original stay, and it's usually just for a 30-minute visit with the doctor."

Anyone who witnessed Baby Bubba after the accident, or dares look at the pictures from his first few days in the hospital, knows that Baby Bubba's recovery is nothing less than a miracle.

Doctors originally told Lisa her little boy would be hospitalized until February, but he was able to return home long before that, in plenty of time to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with his family.

"The doctors were just amazed by his recovery," Lisa said.

Lisa said when Baby Bubba was released from Cincinnati, they didn't tell his sisters he was coming home. They wanted it to be a surprise.

"The girls were pretty excited," Lisa said. "It was a pretty special moment."

The two girls won't have any future problems with their burns, other than some possible discoloration if they get a sun tan. Baby Bubba will have to have some stretching grafts, but she said he should be able to live a normal life.

"He should be able to practice sports and do most things other boys can do," Lisa said.

Lisa is grateful to the Shriners, saying the work they did in Cincinnati was "amazing." She's also grateful for her three older children, who helped in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

She said her 13-year-old son scooped Baby Bubba up after it happened and placed him in cold water. He also called their grandma for help and wetted down blankets to wrap around the twins.

Victoria helped with cold compresses on Debbie and her 6-year-old daughter Hailey helped to calm down Abbigail.

"They were truly amazing," Lisa said. "Because me and my husband at that point were pretty hysterical."

Lisa said the Department of Health and Human Services is trying to organize some kind of recognition for the three older siblings for their heroic efforts.

Other than a fear of being poked and prodded by doctors, Baby Bubba has remained a mostly happy little boy throughout the ordeal.

Lisa said the best physical therapy he received was being able to return home to his sisters.

"He couldn't even bend over to pick something up when he first returned home," Lisa said. "But now he's jumping on the trampoline again with his siblings — something he loves to do."

Lisa hopes others can learn from her family's tragedy.

"You can't keep your eyes on your kids at all times," Lisa said. "Everybody should just make sure to take the extra safety precautions, because you can't tell what could happen. It only takes a moment to bring you to your knees."

For now, the family is looking forward to the holiday season (they all know what they want from Santa Claus).

"Mommy has already talked to Santa Claus for them," Lisa said. "I think they deserve to have a good Christmas this year."


Information from: Beatrice Sun, http://www.beatricedailysun.com

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