AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) — A 12-year-old Highlands, North Carolina boy is recovering from second- and third-degree burns covering half his body after a science experiment blew up his face.
A few weeks ago, Barrett McKim was committed to the JMS Burn Center for life.
His mom tells us he loves science and he was working on an experiment when she heard a loud pop that changed their lives.
“I thought something had fallen or something had broken, maybe like glass. And I got up and as I was going to the front of the house, he ran out in flames and his whole body was on fire,” says McKim’s mother.
The Bunsen burner ignited a bottle of alcohol that was part of the experiment. She grabbed the nearest thing she could find and started beating him with pillows.
“It wasn’t going to go out; the fire would not go out. I tried to take him down to the floor to roll over and he wouldn’t come out,” says the mother. “So I just cried out to God to give me some direction on what to do. We were right next to the kitchen, so I just put it on the floor next to the sink, took the sprayer from the sink and just started spraying it. At that point, Barrett was just asking me, “Am I going to die? Am I going to die Mom, tell me the truth, am I going to die?’
The boy and his mother, who also suffered severe burns to her hands, were airlifted 45 minutes to Augusta, Georgia, to the JMS Burn Center.
McKim’s mother said: “He had no skin. From his fingertips to his knees. And some parts were white. Only white.
Since that day, Barrett McKim has undergone five surgeries for burns covering 50 percent of his body.
McKim’s father, Kyle McKim, said, “To see your child in such pain; to see only the intense pain on his face and his very honest questions “Am I going to die?” he kept asking. One of the things I’ll never forget him asking me several times was, “Tell me the truth.”
The truth is, he’s lucky to be alive.
“I had planned that day to pick up my daughter from her job as a babysitter. If it had been five minutes different, I wouldn’t be home with Barrett,” says his mother.
Just moments before the accident, she called her husband to see if he could come by and pick her up.
“He said, ‘Yeah, I’ve got a minute, I can do it and I can bring her home.’ It was from the Lord because if I hadn’t been there, I don’t know what would have happened to him,” McKim’s mother says.
Barrett’s uncle shares their progress on a GoFundMe page, and the outpouring of love and support they’ve received from around the world has helped them succeed.
“The encouragement and support has been incredible. There are so many blessings, even in the middle of it, we realize that God is protecting us,” says his father.
A supportive stranger said: “When I was 11 I was burnt out. You know, you’re going to survive and you’re going to make it.”
Day after day, this smart, thoughtful, science-loving boy struggles to return to the life he loves.
The boy’s mother said: “He has a metal detector that he will carry everywhere. We’ll go to the park and he’ll go to the playground to play and he’s wearing his metal detector. While everyone else is on the swings, he searches for metal with his little shovel. He is very cautious. He is a thinker.
Barrett still has a long way to go. He has physical therapy every day and has skin graft surgery coming up.
“He was wearing his glasses during this experiment, which we think saved his eyes,” says his mother.
Although this chapter will be a marathon, not a sprint, doctors are pleased with his progress so far, and his parents count his closeness with Augusta as one of their blessings.
“We were so blessed to be a 45-minute flight from here. We just feel that God has met us many times in this trial,” says McKim’s father.
Copyright 2022 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.