Victims of Guatemalan youth home fire arrive in US for treatment

Fire kills dozens, mostly teen girls
Fire kills dozens, mostly teen girls

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Fire kills dozens, mostly teen girls 03:41

Story highlights

  • A fire last week killed 40 people, mostly teen girls, at a Guatemalan youth home
  • Nonprofit Shriners Hospitals are caring for some of those injured

(CNN)As the people of Guatemala come to grips with a fire at a youth home last week that killed 40 people, mostly teenage girls, pediatric burn centers in the United States are tending to some of the severely injured victims.

Shriners Hospitals for Children, a nonprofit network of 22 hospitals with four pediatric burn units, had a team on the ground in Guatemala within 24 hours after a fire tore through the Virgen de la Asunción Safe Home in San Jose Punila, not far from Guatemala City.
The same two physicians were dispatched to Mexico in December after a fireworks explosion in a market left 35 dead, said John McCabe, executive vice president for Shriners Hospitals.
    These physicians, and a second team that followed, traveled to triage and assess injuries, consult with local physicians about best options for treatment and determine who was stable enough to travel. As of Tuesday afternoon, seven victims had been transported to Shriners locations in the United States, officials said.
    Four are in Galveston, Texas; the remaining three are in Boston. Two more are anticipated in Cincinnati unless weather diverts them to the Shriners' fourth pediatric burn center in Sacramento, California, McCabe said.
    The youth home housed minors who have suffered physical, psychological and sexual violence, or who have mild disabilities. Some residents have been abandoned or addicted to drugs or have been victims of trafficking, the Guatemalan government said.
    Details of the patients' conditions and identities could not be disclosed, but Galveston's Dr. Jong Lee described the patients in his unit as having "severe burns" affecting faces, hands, arms, backs, legs and feet. He said one is in critical condition, two are in serious condition, and one is stable.
    The medical needs for child burn victims are different from those of adults, Lee said.
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    "They are still growing, so depending on how you treat them and how they heal, it can affect mobility down the road," he said.
    "It's more of an art than a science," McCabe said.
    The Guatemalan patients may be in the hospitals' care for months. After they heal, they will probably need physical and occupational therapy and, quite possibly, psychological counseling, the doctor said.
    A hallmark of Shriners Hospitals is that children are cared for no matter the family's finances. Of the 22 hospitals, only two are outside the United States: one in Mexico; one in Canada. But in the organization's 95-year history, the hospitals have treated children from more than 180 countries.
    "It's our mission. It's what we do," McCabe said. "We call it 'love to the rescue,' and we live it every day."