A Little Axe boy, who nearly died in an accident last year, has finally returned home.
Austin Norton suffered burns over 77% of his body. On Thursday, after 8-months in the hospital, his family took him home from the INTEGRIS Paul Silverstein Burn Center in Oklahoma City.
“Austin was the biggest burn we've taken care of in this hospital,” said Dr. Christopher Lentz.
Looking at 10-year-old Austin now, it's hard to imagine what he's endured. In November, he suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns in a fire pit accident. Rolla Forcum with the Norman Fire Department was first on scene.
“Everything pretty much except his face and feet, and when we lifted him on the helicopter it was pretty touch and go on whether or not we even thought he would survive the night.”
He did survive and for the next 8-months, he received multiple skin graft surgeries.
“For the first six weeks, it was twice a week to the operating room and then after that it was at least once a week,” recalled Dr. Lentz. “We would go there and cover a little bit more and cover a little bit more and cover a little bit more.”
Too shy to say much on Thursday, Austin revealed what has been the hardest part of his recovery.
“The first time walking,” he said quietly.
He had to learn to walk again with his doctors and nurses with him every step of the way.
“He's a hero,” said Dr. Lentz. “No one will ever understand what he went through, no one will, unless they've been a similar burn survivor because the amount of work that it takes for him to get to the point where he can walk out is enormous.”
Before he left, Austin rang a fire bell on loan from the Oklahoma State Firefighters Association. When pediatric patients are discharged they get to ring the bell. After Austin rang it, his family and all those who helped care for him cheered.
“We feel this is a fitting and symbolic way to applaud all burn survivors,” said Dr. Lentz. “If it wasn't for his motivation, I don't think that this would have been possible.”
When he got downstairs, he had one goal.
“I'm going to walk down to the fire truck,” Austin said.
That’s exactly what he did. When he came outside of the hospital’s main entrance, the Little Axe Fire Department was standing by to escort him home.
“It's amazing to just see him walk out of here without a wheelchair on his own high spirits,” said Forcum.
Austin’s work isn't done. He will have therapies to do at home as he continues his recovery.