GALVESTON, Texas – Six children burned in the Guatemala volcano eruption are receiving treatment at Shriners Hospital for Children after arriving in Texas early Thursday morning.
The children, accompanied by five guardians, were transported via the United States military to the hospital’s pediatric burn facility. Hospital officials categorized their injuries as “life-threatening.”
“A minor burn is 1-2 percent. A moderate burn is up to 10, 15 percent of their body. And, a massive burn or severe burn is above that. All of these kids are above that. All of those kids have that final condition,” Dr. Steven Wolf, Chief of Staff at Shriners Galveston, said.
An emergency medical “go team” of pediatric burn physicians and nurses was deployed to Guatemala within 24 hours after the volcano erupted on Sunday. Hospital officials said they worked with local authorities and surgeons on the ground to identify these six children, ages 1-16, who would benefit from their health care.
“Any time there’s a mass casualty event…there’s a sweet spot in the middle…the ones that really have severe injuries and those that can recover from them with state of the art care,” Wolf said.
Wolf believes the children’s injuries are due to contact with ash clouds.
“The particles form the ash then cause a contact burn. So, these are thermal burns. There’s also risk of breathing these particles in. So, we’ve looked at them for that, and we’ll treat them appropriately,” Wolf said.
As of this morning, all of the children were stable, though most are on ventilators. The process to full recovery, however, could take months, or even years.
“Once you get in this building, you’re ours until you’re 18,” Wolf said “And, that goes on to all of the phases of care from the acute care to rehabilitation, which is the next step, to reconstruction, and then the psychological care of these children and their families as well.”
Shriners provides on-site housing for the families for part of that time. After the patients are sent home, they can be flown from Guatemala back to theU.S. for recurring treatment. Total treatment for each child can reach millions of dollars—at no cost for the patient.
At least 99 people are dead and nearly 200 others unaccounted for following the eruption.
“The people of the United States extend our deepest condolences to the victims of the ongoing eruption of Fuego Volcano in Guatemala,” The White House said in a statement released Thursday. “At the request of the Government of Guatemala, we are sending emergency aid, including financial resources to help meet food, water, and sanitation needs for the affected population. The United States is also sending aircraft to assist in transporting burn victims of this terrible event for treatment in Florida. We will continue to coordinate with the Guatemalan government to provide further aid where needed.”
Shriners Hospitals in Boston, Cincinnati, and Sacramento are on standby, ready to take in more patients from Guatemala, if necessary.