Burn Victim Leaves Hospital
Burn Victim Leaves Hospital
Jun. 09, 1990
NEW YORK (AP) _ A national outpouring of gifts, cards and letters helped a 12-year-old boy survive burns over 55 percent of his body after a bully allegedly set him on fire, the boy's cousin said.
David Opont, released Friday from the hospital where he stayed three months and received six skin grafs, added his own words of gratitude for his remarkable recovery.
''I have to thank God, my doctors and nurses,'' the 12-year-old said as he faced dozens of television cameras and reporters on the lawn of New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.
But Opont still faces physical therapy and reconstructive surgery, mostly cosmetic, and counseling for the next three to four weeks at another hospital, doctors said.
When asked how he felt, David said in a soft voice: ''Fine.''
''The first thing I want to do is go to school,'' he said.
Standing by were David's mother, father, sister, doctors and nurses.
''The gifts, cards and letters ... all of that contributed to bringing David back to life,'' said Guito Lavoile, a cousin and spokesman for the immigrant family from Haiti. David arrived in the United States in 1988.
David was given a 50-50 chance of survival after he was attacked on his way to school March 7. He was visited by Mayor David Dinkins, entertainer Bill Cosby and former President Reagan, among others, in a national outpouring of sympathy.
A bully forced David into a building, tied him to a railing and set him afire, police said. The same boy allegedly robbed Opont a day earlier.
The 13-year-old alleged assailant was arrested hours after the attack and has been jailed at a juvenile center ever since.
''He has accomplished a lot, but he has a long way to go,'' said Dr. Cleon Goodwin, director of the hospital's burn ward.
David wore a dark suit with a pink shirt and black bow tie. His right hand was covered with a glove bandage and he had bald spots on his head, but he looked fit otherwise. Most of his burns are on his abdomen, chest and back.
''Beneath his nice shirt, he has his compression garments on which he will have to wear for the next two to three years,'' Goodwin said. The special garments put pressure on the burn scars, reduce their size and help the color return to normal, he said.
David was taken in wheelchair to a helicopter that flew him to the Margaret T. Palomino Rehabilitation Center at Jamaica Hospital.
At the rehabilitation center, Opont began occupational therapy to improve the range of his right hand, which was severely burned. He also had educational games and schoolwork.
''His favorite game is Nintendo,'' said Dr. Craig Rosenberg, in charge of rehabilitation medicine at Jamaica. By playing the home video game, ''he can work on hand-eye coordination.''
He also will be counseled on how to deal with the reactions other children may have to his scars, Rosenberg said.
''Kids don't have tact and kids usually don't know what to say. Kids are honest,'' he said. ''The main focus is ... making sure he is ready emotionally as well as physically to go back into his home environment.''