Austin Norton, of Little Axe, Okla., first came to INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center on Nov. 26, 2016 with third degree burns covering more than 77 percent of his body. He was just nine years old at the time and had been injured in a bon fire accident.
Little did he know then, that he would spend the next 236 days in the hospital.
Austin would endure multiple surgeries and a variety of different treatments during his extended stay. He celebrated his tenth birthday within the hospital walls; as well as Christmas, New Years, and all of the major holidays since.
He finally got to go home Thurs., July 20, 2017.
To date, he is the largest pediatric burn injury ever treated at INTEGRIS. The Paul Silverstein Burn Center opened in 1975, and since that time the facility has treated mostly adults. Oklahoma children routinely had to be sent out of state to receive specialized burn care – until recently.
Working closely with the INTEGRIS Children’s Pediatric Unit at INTEGRIS Baptist, the burn center started accepting some pediatric patients in late 2013. They started with small burns and have slowly begun to see children with a greater percent of burns.
To signify the eight months Austin spent in the hospital, he was allowed to ring the hospital bell eight times upon his departure. One ring for each month he was hospitalized.
The Oklahoma State Firefighters Association loaned the burn center an actual fire bell from its museum to be used specifically for children. Upon discharge, pediatric burn survivors ring the bell to signify their personal victory and medical accomplishment. A similar bell in the burn unit is for adult use.
Austin & Dr. Lentz“We feel this is a fitting and symbolic way to applaud all burn survivors, regardless of their age, for their determination and hard work, and to recognize the courage and bravery it takes to overcome this type of devastating injury,” says Christopher Lentz, M.D., medical director of the Paul Silverstein Burn Center.
Austin still has a long road ahead of him that includes more surgery and months, possibly years, of rehabilitation. But on this day, he got to live a childhood dream. The Little Axe Fire Department picked him up from the hospital and took him home riding in the front-seat of a firetruck.