"Prettier on the Inside"

I just met the most beautiful ray of light. Her name is Kaylee; she is 11 years old and lives in Burgin, Kentucky. When I started talking to Kaylee she was full of energy, giggly, funny and beautiful. She seemed like any other well-adjusted, happy girl.
Unfortunately, Kaylee has endured unimaginable physical and mental pain, permanent scarring, despair and loss. When Kaylee was 7-years-old, she was getting a washcloth out of the dryer when a gas furnace exploded.
In her mother's own words: “On the night of the fire I was taking a bath and Kaylee was in the bathroom with me. She always comes and talks to me and plays or sings while I’m bathing. Kaylee was sitting next to me singing 'This little light of mine.” I can still hear her singing that song. For some reason, that night was even more beautiful than any other time. When she finished singing, I realized I had forgotten the washcloth. I asked her to get one from the dryer for me, something I wish I had never asked her to do.  A few minutes later, I heard a loud sound and a scream like I had never heard before. I got out of the tub and ran towards the kitchen and Kaylee was running towards me engulfed in flames. I could not even see her body she was a walking fireball. She was screaming ‘mommy help me I’m on fire” and patting herself and stomping. I told her brother to run and get help. I rushed Kaylee to the tub and on the way to bathroom she was setting everything on fire.  I immediately began pushing her into the water; I raised her up again and all the skin from her chest went sliding down her body. I ran outside [even though] I was naked but didn’t even think about it; a man came walking down the street with his dog and I screamed to him to call 911, my daughter is on fire and she is dying. I ran back to her and told her everything was going to be ok, that help was coming. I kept praying to God to help my baby!” 
 The paramedics arrived and took Kaylee to the local hospital. Two hospitals turned Kaylee away saying her burns were too severe for them to treat.  The mother would not give up and continued pleading for help. Kaylee was finally airlifted to Shriners Hospital for Children, located in Cincinnati, OH.  Initially, doctors gave Kaylee little hope for survival. She had suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns over half of her body. Numerous life sustaining measures were taken prior to the transfer to Shriners due to the severity of her condition.
Kaylee spent five weeks at Shriners hospital and was on life support for almost two weeks. Physicians performed surgeries/procedures including escharotomies, skin debridement and skin grafting. While hospitalized, she required heavy sedation, ventilator support for respiratory failure, aggressive fluid resuscitation, cardiac and pulmonary monitoring, blood transfusions, nutritional support through a feeding tube, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and psychological support.
Remarkably, she was discharged on 01/02/10. She has had multiple surgeries/procedures on an outpatient basis since then and her care has been transferred to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, GA.  Currently, she has had over thirty surgeries and will endure them the rest of her life.
When Kaylee first saw herself in the mirror she cried to her mother, “I look like a monster. Why didn’t you just let me die?”  Kaylee understandably suffered from severe depression, was very angry, anxious, could not sleep and had severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. 
Kaylee and her family began receiving services from bluegrass.org in July, 2010. Her individual therapist is Peggy Kessler, LPCC. Ms. Kessler has utilized a wide variety of techniques to assist Kaylee in regaining progress to her pre-trauma level of functioning. Kaylee has received individual, family and group therapy services. Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavior Therapy has been of great benefit as it has been utilized both in individual and in group format. Through the development of a strong therapeutic alliance, Kaylee began to address and verbalize her body image issues resulting from her trauma. She also began working toward finding acceptance and greater understanding of how traumatic events do not have to be a limitation for her future but a source of inspiration to make the world a better place.
The family also received services from Karen Best, MA, a bluegrass.org, Impact Service Coordinator in Mercer and Boyle Counties. Ms. Best assisted in coordinating services for Kaylee as well as developing and engaging her service team members. Her mother has played a huge part in service planning and feels Kaylee benefits from the team approach and support.
Kaylee’s mom states: “Many burn victims withdraw from society and this is something I did not want for my daughter; so I got her into counseling almost as soon as we came home. God sent us Peggy Kessler. Kaylee immediately bonded with her and I let Peggy do all the work. Words cannot express how grateful I am for Peggy; she is amazing in her work and she gave me my daughter back.”
Burgin Independent School, where Kaylee attends, had a fundraiser that raised over $5,000 for her family. They had lost everything in the fire, including Kaylee’s 3 cats.  The local radio stations broadcasted her story and Kaylee received numerous e-mails, letters and phone calls from other burn victims offering encouragement and support. 
After several years of therapy, over 30 surgeries and numerous blood transfusions, Kaylee is much more comfortable in her body.  She is less anxious and reaches out to other burn victims. She visits Shriners hospital to talk to children in the trauma burn unit and lets them know things will get better. 
Kaylee is your typical young girl. She loves anything “Hello Kitty”, the “Twilight” series (she is team Jacob), and Michael Jackson music. As a matter of fact, it was a Michael Jackson song that woke her up from her coma. Her favorite foods are pickles and fried chicken. She likes to talk about boys and giggles with her infectious laugh about boys that might “like” her. 
The Cincinnati hospital was wonderful to Kaylee and her family.  They came to her school before she returned to prepare the others students and discourage teasing and cruel comments. They also offered a class with a Hollywood makeup artist who would provide makeup and techniques to cover up her scars.  Kaylee says “I like myself the way I am, so I am going to give the makeup to my mom!”
Kaylee is very close to her mother and her stepdad. She has 2 older brothers who are very protective of her. She loves her new cat “Kelsey” and says she is full of mischief. Kaylee wants to eventually work at a humane society or be a burn unit nurse. She definitely wants to do something to take care of others and provide them with comfort and hope. 
When you look at this beautiful, vivacious, generous little girl, it is hard to imagine what she has endured. Kaylee says now she is “prettier on the inside.” For those of you who meet Kaylee, you will discover that she is as “beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside.” 
Kaylee, I will never forget meeting you, your courage, your giggle, your spirit and your beautiful smile!
Stephanie Dean

 Please watch video below of Kaylee which shows her strength, humor and wonderful outlook.   


Please be aware that one of the pictures below shows the severity of Kaylee’s burns.  Although the picture is very graphic, it shows you how much this young girl has overcome.   


1351 Newtown Pike
Lexington, KY 40511-1277
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