Reese: A Strong Survivor

group image with Reese and her family

On Memorial Day weekend 2014, a fun weekend at her grandparents’ farmhouse in Virginia turned into a nightmare for Reese Burdette and her sister, Brinkley. A fire broke out. Brinkley and her grandfather escaped unharmed. Seven year-old Reese and her grandmother did not.

Reese was airlifted to the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, the designated pediatric trauma and burn center for the state of Maryland. She had sustained burns over 35 percent of her body and suffered from extreme smoke inhalation. Arriving at Johns Hopkins, her lungs and heart were so devastated, the pediatric trauma team placed her on a heart and lung bypass system.

This complex system known as extra corporeal membrane oxygenation or ECMO, is not typically an option for burn victims, due to typically restricted blood flow in damaged tissue.  On ECMO, Reese could lose her burned leg. To her family, the choice was between her losing a limb or her life. They chose to preserve her life, to give her the greatest fighting chance for recovery.

In the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, innovative procedures and ingenuity eventually got Reese through and off ECMO. Multiple surgeries since have helped to improve her quality of life and to heal.

In the twenty one months since she was first admitted to Johns Hopkins, Reese has lived in the PICU. Her playful spirit is a joy to the multidisciplinary team caring for her. Now halfway to 9, the 8 year-old looks forward to the day she can return home and to her beloved cow, Pantene.

Listen to Reese's story