Baby hurt in fire now in stable condition

The child was severely burned when his oxygen hood ignited at a Coon Rapids hospital.

.MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – A newborn boy was in critical but stable condition Wednesday after suffering second- and third-degree burns from a flame that ignited while he was under an oxygen hood at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids.

Allina Hospital and Clinics, which owns Mercy, issued a statement saying the infant was in an open-topped bassinet under a warmer at the suburban hospital on Tuesday morning when the accident happened. The statement said the baby was wearing an oxygen hood and something in the oxygen-enriched environment ignited into flame.

An oxygen hood is a device that fits over a baby’s face to supply additional oxygen.

Nursing staff were with the baby at the time and immediately put out the fire, Allina said. Allina spokesman David Kanihan declined to release the specific brand of oxygen hood and warmer being used, citing an ongoing investigation.

The baby, who was born three weeks premature, was transferred to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he was in the neonatal intensive care unit. He was in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator but was responding to treatment, said Dr. Leslie Smith, assistant director of the hospital’s Burn Center.

“I think everyone was concerned,” Smith said at a news conference Wednesday. “The good news is that there was no inhalation injury.”

The boy will “most likely” survive, but suffered burns on 17 to 18 percent of his body, including his head, shoulders, part of his face and the tops of his hands, Smith said.

Smith and Dr. George Peltier, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at the Burn Center, said it’s too early to tell if the infant will need surgery, but they expected he would remain in the hospital for at least a few weeks.

“This is our first experience with burns at this age,” Peltier said.

Chris Messerly, an attorney for the family, told reporters the fire shouldn’t have happened.

But Messerly said the family is focused on letting their baby heal and is not yet looking at taking legal action.

Messerly said the family had named the baby – just 12 hours old when he was injured – Maverick. Hospital officials and the attorney did not release the baby’s last name or identify the family, who live north of Elk River. The mother was also transferred from Mercy to HCMC to continue recovering from her Caesarian section and be near her son, Messerly said.

“The family is doing remarkably well under the circumstances,” Messerly said. “This is a mother who’s never held her son, who’s not allowed to touch her son.” He said the family has one other child, a daughter.

Kanihan, the Allina spokesman, said he was unaware of any other hospital experiencing such an event.

But the fire dangers of oxygen in hospitals and other health care facilities are well known. Fires happen during surgery, and they even happen when patients who are on oxygen try to smoke.

The ECRI Institute, a nonprofit health research agency based in suburban Philadelphia, estimates that 50 to 100 fires annually ignite during surgeries performed in the U.S. Many surgical tools generate heat, and oxygen can build up in operating rooms, particularly under surgical drapes. The institute says those fires kill one to two people annually, and 20 percent of the affected patients suffer serious injuries. The American Society of Anesthesiologists was developing guidelines for preventing surgical fires.

Authorities were still investigating how the fire at Mercy started, and Smith and Messerly did not discuss the cause. Coon Rapids Fire Chief John Piper did not immediately return a call Wednesday seeking comment.