On a recent visit to Akron Children’s to get sized for new compression garments and undergo laser surgery procedures, Arthur (Artie), age 8, and Alan Curtis, age 9, raced down the hall to embrace licensed practical nurse Stacey Cool. Stacey, who cared for the boys last year when they were severely burned in an explosion in their home, made a special trip in to see her 2 favorite patients.
“I wasn’t scheduled to work today, but I always mark on my calendar when the boys are coming in for an appointment and I make sure I’m here to see them,” she said.
Stacey first met the Curtis brothers after they were life flighted to Akron Children’s in August 2022.
“I had only been working at Children’s for about 10 months at the time,” she said. “They were the first serious pediatric burn patients I’d cared for.”
Alan and Artie had third-degree burns covering 48% and 22% of their bodies respectively, including multiple extremities and their faces. Both boys spent time intubated and sedated while they underwent multiple surgeries, including graft placements.
Although it’s been a long-held dream of hers to be a pediatric nurse (she’s currently pursuing her associate degree in nursing (RN) at Kent State University), Stacey said she never imagined being a burn nurse.
“I kind of stumbled into this job. I feel like God gives you opportunities you need, and where others need you,” she said. “I was with the boys so much they came to really trust me.”
That trust extended to the boys’ mom, Alice, who knew her sons were in good hands with Stacey when she had to leave them to travel back home to Powhatan Point in Belmont County, 2 hours away from Akron Children’s, to deal with the family’s restaurant.
“Stacey was very good to them,” said Alice. “She was very gentle and had a lot of patience. She was the only nurse they wanted to touch them.”
Not only did Stacey help heal their physical wounds, but she was there for their emotional ones as well.
“Their dad died as a result of the fire, and I was with their mom when she told them,” said Stacey.
While admitted, the boys had rooms next to each other and asked for one another frequently.
“I remember when Artie gained enough strength to get into a wheelchair. We were able to wheel him to Alan’s room so they could see each other,” said Stacey. “’Arthur, I miss you,’ the first words Alan said, brought instant tears to my eyes after seeing his brother for the first time since the accident.”
In addition to keeping tabs on their vitals, dressing changes and baths, Stacey also encouraged the boys to participate in their rehabilitation with burn therapists Jamie Petit and Jessie Hardesty, who worked with the boys to help them regain the strength to walk, feed themselves and be kids again. At today’s visit, Jamie sees just how far the boys have come because of their continued physical and occupational therapy.
“Their range of motion has improved remarkably,” she said.
Jamie sees them every few months as they continue to grow to remeasure them for the custom compression garments they wear at night to help with scar management.
Seeing the boys race around the burn unit today reminds Stacey of how life can change in an instant.
“A bad thing happened to them that brought them into my life,” she said. “They have taught me not to take things for granted. Being a part of their healing journey and seeing how much light and life they still have is what makes my job so rewarding.”