Courtney's Burn Story

Jun 6, 2019

Burn Center Rallies for 9 Month Old with Severe Burns

It was New Year’s Day, 2004, at the Mecke household in Grosse Pointe. Suddenly, pandemonium broke out as wild shrieks emanated from the kitchen where 9-month-old Courtney Mecke had been crawling at the feet of her father. Her brother, McCalla, now 9 years old, tells what happened:

"I was just playing when I heard Courtney start screaming," said McCalla. "My mom left a boiling teapot on the stove with the handle out. My dad reached up to the cabinet and accidentally hit the handle. The boiling water came down on Courtney’s head, face, arms and back. She turned red all over," he recalled.

The house was in chaos.

"I rushed frantically to the kitchen," said Mary Alice Mecke, Courtney’s mom. "I picked her up, turned on the faucet at the sink and stuck Courtney’s head under cold water, which is precisely what you’re supposed to do. Only I didn’t know it at the time. It was pure instinct," she said.

Courtney Mecke boiling water burn

The parents rushed Courtney off to the nearest hospital, Bon Secours. A doctor there took one look at Courtney’s peeling skin and summoned an ambulance for Children’s Hospital of Michigan, site of the only pediatric burn center in metropolitan Detroit. As the Children’s burn team awaited her arrival, Courtney traveled to the hospital in shock, with burns over 25 percent of her body.

Over the next several days, Courtney received sedation and underwent hour-long debriding procedures twice each day. At each procedure, specialists removed dead skin and tissue from the burned areas to improve the healing potential of the remaining healthy tissue.

During the 19 days she spent at Children’s, Courtney also experienced two skin graft surgeries, primarily for her arms and shoulders. She slept with her eyes swollen shut and her arms raised toward the ceiling to reduce swelling. Moreover, she was put into a total body wrap twice a day.

"She looked like a mummy," said Mrs. Mecke.

Within the first week, it was necessary for Courtney to start physical therapy to maintain the elasticity of her skin. Otherwise, because her burns encapsulated her joints, she would have experienced loss of movement. When she came home, Courtney’s right shoulder required physical therapy four times a day.

Brother and sister

When she was injured, Courtney’s brother was only 6 years old. He wasn’t permitted to see his sister for two weeks. Furthermore, he was shuttled every day to the homes of friends and relatives while Mr. and Mrs. Mecke stayed with Courtney. "At night, my son would go to bed and ask me if his sister was going to die, or whether he would ever see her again," said Mrs. Mecke. "But the hospital has this fabulous program to help a sibling get through the first visit with a brother or sister who has been through severe trauma.

"When McCalla came to the hospital on day 13, they had a big cake waiting for him. The nurses showed him dolls that demonstrated what Courtney would look like in a wrap. And the Detroit Fire Department donated what they called ‘a big gift for big brother.’ It was just incredible," she said.

You can guess how Mrs. Mecke feels about Children’s Hospital.

"If we hadn’t taken Courtney to Children’s, I’m convinced she’d be dealing with some critical issues today," said Mrs. Mecke. "When you have burns as severe as Courtney’s were, it can really impact other organs.

"Let me give you just one example of the quality of care. We were on the elevator on the way to Courtney’s second surgery. There was some sort of minor problem with her IV. We got off the elevator and a passing nurse from another department stopped in her tracks and adjusted the IV right there. I mean it’s a complete, holistic approach to treatment and recovery at Children’s. Everybody comes together for the kids," she said.

For two years Courtney wore a jobe, a tight-fitting garment that compresses the skin and helps prevent scarring. If you were to see Courtney in a T-shirt today you probably couldn’t detect that she had been so traumatized. Some scarring is evident on her shoulders, so Mr. and Mrs. Mecke will be looking into plastic surgery.

"I just want to say that the people at Children’s Hospital cared-- really cared--for Courtney," said Mrs. Mecke. "I sincerely feel that anyone in that building would drop anything they were doing to help a child in need."

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