Girl, 5, set on fire by a candle and left in a coma for a month

Harrowing images show girl, five, who was left unrecognisable after she was set on fire by a candle and left in a coma for a month with third degree burns all over her body

  • Gianna Wrightman’s t-shirt was set alight as she played with a scented candle
  • Was put in a medically induced coma as doctors scrambled to salvage her skin 
  • When her mother arrived at hospital her daughter was ‘unrecognisable’, she said 

These are the harrowing images of a five-year-old girl who was set on fire by a candle and left with third degree burns across her body. 

Gianna Wrightman’s t-shirt was set alight as she played with a scented candle in her grandparents’ home in Algonac, Michigan.

Her panicked grandmother scrambled to put the fire out and call an ambulance, which rushed the youngster to A&E at a children’s hospital in Detroit.

When her mother Rebeka, 27, next saw her little girl she was ‘unrecognisable’ and wrapped head-to-toe in bandages.

The youngster was kept in a medically induced coma for a month as medics scrambled to salvage her skin. 

Gianna Wrightman was just five-years-old when her t-shirt was set alight by a scented candle which left third degree burns across her entire body

The youngster was kept in a medically induced coma for a month as medics scrambled to salvage her skin

When her mother next saw her little girl she was ‘unrecognisable’ and wrapped head-to-toe in bandages. The youngster puts on a brave smile as she recovers from a number of skin grafts and plastic surgery

Gianna had to use a wheelchair for three months after the accident because her feet were so severely singed

During this time Gianna, now eight, was given skin grafts on her upper thighs to help heal some the 33 per cent burns she suffered on her body.

The little girl also received lazer surgery and is set to receive more plastic surgery on her neck, hands, face and arms both this year and next to help her make a full recovery.

Ms Wrightman is sharing her daughters story in order to encourage others to stop burning candles when children are around to stop incidents.

The mother said: ‘Gianna had just got out of the bath, so my mum threw one of her own shirts on my daughter for her to wear to bed until I picked her up after work.

‘My mum had just bought a new candle to make her house smell good and had it lit.

‘She left the candle unattended and was doing some chores in the other room and my daughter was curious and started playing with it – but the next thing she knew she was in flames.

Even once Gianna woke up from the coma, she had to go under the knife multiple more times to salvage her burnt skin

Despite the long-road of recovery ahead for Gianna, her mother Rebeka Wrightman (pictured together) insists that her future is bright due to the ongoing support of her family


Ms Wrightman has begged other parents not to use candles in their home with young children around

‘She was screaming for her grandmother, and my mum ran in and put the fire out before running to my sister’s house with her where she called both me and an ambulance.

WHAT ARE THIRD DEGREE BURNS? 

This type of burn destroys the outer layer of skin (epidermis) and the entire layer beneath (the dermis).

What causes a third-degree burn? 

  • A scalding liquid
  • Skin that comes in contact with a hot object for an extended period of time
  • Flames from a fire
  • An electrical source
  • A chemical source

What are the symptoms of a third-degree burn? 

  • Dry and leathery skin
  • Black, white, brown, or yellow skin
  • Swelling
  • Lack of pain because nerve endings have been destroyed.

Treatment for third-degree burns

Specific treatment for a full thickness third-degree burn will be determined by your child’s doctor, based on the following:

  • Your child’s age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the burn
  • Location of the burn
  • Cause of the burn
  • Your child’s tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment for full thickness, third-degree burns will depend on the severity of the burn.

Burn severity is determined by the amount of body surface area that has been affected. 

Treatment may include:

  • Early cleaning and debriding (removing dead skin and tissue from the burned area). This procedure can be done in a special bathtub in the hospital or as a surgical procedure.
  • Intravenous (IV) fluids containing electrolytes
  • Intravenous (IV) or oral antibiotics if your child develops an infection
  • Antibiotic ointments or creams
  • Skin grafting (may be required to achieve closure of the wounded area)
  • Functional and cosmetic reconstruction
  • Tetanus shot

 

‘I arrived within minutes and then the ambulance came – they put her on a stretcher and took us straight to a children’s hospital in Detroit.

‘The next time I saw her I didn’t even recognise her – she was wrapped up head-to-toe in bandages and was put into a coma.’

Even once Gianna woke up from the coma, she had to go under the knife multiple more times over the course of three months.

She had to relearn how to walk after her feet had been so severely burned in the accident.

Her mother added: ‘For the next three months she received skin grafts to her upper thighs, as her skin was completely raw.

‘She has some donor skin and a lot of her skin came from her back – the surgeon scraped her whole back and put the skin on her trunk, chest and neck.

‘After these skin grafts she also had laser therapy and is still expected to have several more surgeries in the future as she grows to release the skin on her face, neck, arms and hands.

‘Once we were discharged from the hospital in December 2016, Gianna would have to attend physical and occupational therapy twice a week for two years to help her get back on her feet.

‘She has had a total of eight surgeries so far, but it’s likely she will have to continue having them well into the future.’

Despite the long-road of recovery ahead for Gianna, Ms Wrightman insists that her future is bright due to the ongoing support of her family.

She has begged other parents not to use candles in their home with young children around.

She said: ‘I still believe that Gianna’s future is going to be wonderful – she has a great family and mum, we all love her so much.

‘We will all never stop learning about burns and scarring as far as me and my family goes to help her have the most normal and comfortable life possible.

‘However, as a family we have vouched never to light a candle again with the children around and I hope that by sharing this story it encourages other families not to either.

‘Even though you may teach your little ones about fire safety, kids are always curious.

‘I wouldn’t even take a risk or a chance with lighting any candles if children live in the home with you, as I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through what my daughter has had to.’ 

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