Eleven-year-old burn survivor Kaden Howard of Sylvan Lake hopes his story will help others in a similar situation find their will and hope to get better.
Recently, he was named the 2020 Champion Child for the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton.
It came with $500 for Howard to spend as he liked, which he admits was spent on some video games.
Being named child champion means Howard will attend various events over the next year where he will tell his story and try to raise money for the Stollery and the Children’s Miracle Network.
When asked how he thinks his story will help inspire others, Howard responded, “That’s where I’m confused.”
“Kaden doesn’t understand just how amazing he is,” said Kristy-Lee Bolton, Howard’s mother.
Howard was camping and quading with his father, and while gassing up his quad on a hot day during the May long weekend in 2018, something sparked and he was engulfed in a ball of fire.
Bolton said she is so grateful for those who were nearby and helped Howard when it happened, saying the oilfield training of those nearby saved Howard’s life.
“They removed his shirt before wrapping him in cold wet linens, and that is something I never would have thought of,” Bolton said, adding, “It took a minute and a half to get him wrapped up and into an ambulance.”
Howard was first taken to hospital in Rocky Mountain House before going to the Stollery via STARS.
He was in a medically-induced coma for almost two weeks, isolated for 52 days, had several grafting surgeries to treat the burns that covered 70 per cent of his body from the neck down and a surgery on his arm.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. When he was in isolation I couldn’t even touch him … We didn’t know what to expect and we just took it one day at a time,” Bolton said.
Howard defied all odds, and said he was determined to not only walk, but to live a normal life and play hockey again.
One day he woke up and told his mother that he was going to walk that day.
“I didn’t think much of it, but I told him we would try. He took eight steps that day,” Bolton said. “He took more the next day and the next. We stopped counting after 300.”
Howard doesn’t remember much from the hospital, but he remembers enjoying aspects of it.
He played Xbox a lot and used that to get other children around him to have hope, though he didn’t know it.
One instance had Howard asking another child to come play Xbox after comparing their accidents.
“I remember the boy’s dad had tears in his eyes and thanked us. The boy hadn’t been out of bed in two weeks and had barely eaten anything,” said Bolton.
Howard’s determination to be a normal kid was so intense, that four months after the accident, he was discharged. Three days later, he was back to school. One month later, he hit the ice with his hockey team.
Though he doesn’t really remember that first skate, Bolton said there was a lot of smiles and tears seeing him skating again.