SPRING HILL — April Fisher can breathe easier now that she knows her son will be okay.
After being burned in a recent house fire, 3-year-old De'jon Newberry remains in stable condition at Tampa General Hospital. Fisher said he is expected to remain in the hospital for a week, while full recovery could take months.
The boy and his older sister were playing in the garage of the family's home at 13337 Teaberry Lane on June 4, pretending to be camping. A bed sheet the kids were using as a makeshift tent caught fire when they started playing with a cigarette lighter, according to a Hernando County Sheriff's Office report.
The resulting fire left De'jon with second- and third-degree burns on his arms, head, neck and scalp. The girl, who is Fisher's daughter, was unharmed.
The children were unsupervised at the time, but Mary Rodi, a caseworker for the Florida Department of Children and Families, determined that there was no neglect involved.
Fisher said she rushed De'jon to Spring Hill Regional Hospital but was surprised by the response. The emergency room staff simply patched him up and sent him home, she said.
"They didn't even try to treat him. He was burned pretty badly," said Fisher, who noted that her family does have medical insurance.
Fisher took her son to Tampa General Hospital, where he underwent surgery. The process included skin grafting, a surgical procedure involving replacing burned areas of the body with a skin substitute for a temporary healing on his right arm.
"They actually took care of my child (Tampa General Hospital)," Fisher said. "I'm so glad he's doing better."
Alex Contreras, the CEO of Spring Hill Regional Hospital, said burn victims are treated on a case-by-case basis. Those decisions, he said, are made entirely by the doctor on duty in the emergency room at that time.
"It really depends on how urgent the burns are," Contreras said last week. "The location of the burns on the victim is also important."
Contreras declined to comment on this or any other individual case. He said no person who enters Spring Hill Regional Hospital is ever turned away or treated unfairly.
"We try our best and we would never turn anyone away," Contreras said.
Fisher also took issue with the comments made by a neighbor after the incident that she leaves her children unattended. She said that the home is in a cul-de-sac and that she had a couch and other furniture set up in the garage so that she and other adults can have the garage door open and monitor the children playing in the yard.
A Hernando County Sheriff's Office report stated that the children had been left unsupervised for about 10 minutes at the time of the fire. The DCF said there had been a mix-up in communication among the adults in the home as to who was watching the children.
Ryan Strong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 544-1630.