By Joel Stottrup
Amanda Grimm, 9, of rural Milaca, is doing much better now since the mishap in her yard on May 28 that caused her burns, some severe.
The Milo Lamplighter 4-H’er talked about her condition as she sat on a bench at the Mille Lacs County Fair in Princeton last Thursday. She was steps away from the barns that housed the 4-H animals she took to the fair this year: two sheep, a rabbit, and a Paso Fino breed horse named Paradise.
On the morning of Amanda’s accident, burning gasoline set her sweatshirt on fire.
Her father Marty Grimm, also at the fair last Thursday, recounted the accident. Amanda was walking through their yard at about 11 a.m. that day to visit Paradise when a couple of her older brothers were nearby, trying to start a reluctant gas engine.
The two boys were pouring gasoline from a tin can into the engine’s carburetor when one of the boys pulled the starter cord. It caused the engine to backfire and ignite the gas in the can. Grimm said the boy holding the burning can of fuel threw it backward over his shoulders to get rid of it, not realizing Amanda was behind him.
Amanda said that when the burning gas set her sweatshirt ablaze, the flames moved from the upper part of her right arm and up onto her face.
Amanda said her dad and a family friend named Nathan, who were both nearby, tried to extinguish the fire by rolling Amanda on the ground. But that didn’t stop the fire, so they rolled the sweatshirt up from the bottom and pulled it off Amanda, causing the fire to go out, at least temporarily. Grimm said that when the sweatshirt was thrown to the ground, the fire re-ignited, upon which they then stomped the fire out for good. The reignition shows how much alcohol was in that fuel, Grimm said.
An ambulance crew rushed Amanda to the Princeton airport. She was then transported by helicopter to Hennepin County Medical Center, where Amanda stayed for eight days, the first day in the intensive care unit.
Amanda has been taken back to HCMC each week since her discharge from the hospital to make sure her wound is clean and is healing properly. About a month ago, she had a skin graft operation in which skin from the right side of her head was grafted onto her right cheek.
She was also outfitted with a special mask that keeps tight the area of her face where the burn was so it stays in the proper shape. It also helps the healing by keeping the burn area moist, Grimm said.
Amanda is one of 10 children of Marty and Heidi Grimm. Marty Grimm said he was glad to see some of Amanda’s spunk return during her third day at HCMC.
“Get away from me, you’re pulling me into your orbit,” he recalled her jokingly telling her dad, as if he was the size of a planet.
Amanda recalled how she felt when she was burned.
“It hurt,” she said. “It just felt kind of tingly and weird.”
Amanda indicated that she didn’t feel so great for a number of weeks after. But she has been doing a lot better in the past month or so and now feels “just fine,” she said.
Amanda didn’t have her mask on when she was at the fair last Thursday talking about the burn experience.
Marty Grimm said she is supposed to be wearing the mask more than she does and anticipated that she would be wearing it later that day.
Part of the right side of Amanda’s hair was shaved to do the skin graft. Marty Grimm said he was surprised how quickly the skin on the right side of her head has grown back to normal following the removal of skin there for the graft.
Marty Grimm also said he is appreciative of the quick response and help by Mille Lacs County Deputy Dan Mott and all the ambulance crew members who responded the day of the accident.
“Everybody was on the stick,” he said. “They were moving.”
Amanda and her father said they are also thankful for all the family members and friends who have given them support such as through gas cards, stuffed animals and other toys.
Marty Grimm said his insurance is covering the medical, but there have been a lot of costs in going back and forth between their home and HCMC.
The county’s 4-H’ers have been very helpful, Marty Grimm added, and said there is a benefit being planned (no date yet set) to help offset the family’s resulting expenses.