North Carolina Boy Severely Burned After Failed Science Experiment

Barrett McKim wrapped in bandages on a hospital bed
Barrett McKim, 12, is recovering from burns on half of his body.GoFundMe

Twelve-year-old Barrett McKim feared for his life when an explosion burned half of his body.

A North Carolina boy faces second and third-degree burns on half of his body after an at-home science experiment led to an explosion.

Twelve-year-old Barrett McKim was conducting a science experiment while at home with his mother and four siblings during their summer break, according to the New York Post.

Barrett’s father, Kyle McKim, told the New York Post that Barrett liked working with different rocks and minerals and heating different ones up. On the day of the explosion, Barrett was working with fool’s gold after reading it can change colors, reported the New York Post.

“We don’t know if that was sparked by one of the sparks from the rocks or something with the Bunsen burner,” McKim told the outlet. “We’ve looked at the lighter which seems like maybe it had a faulty connection. We don’t really know what ignited the accident, but it exploded up into his face and is what created the burn.”

After Barrett was airlifted in a helicopter to the JMS Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Georgia, doctors initially told Barrett’s parents that they thought the boy had burns on 40% of his body, but because the boy used isopropyl alcohol, an accelerant to get more heat during his experiment, he now has burns on 50% of his body, the outlet wrote. Twenty percent of the burns are third-degree and thirty percent are second-degree. 

The New York Post wrote that the boy is battling burns mostly on his lower face, neck, front torso, arms, hands, shoulders, and his thighs.

Barrett’s mother heard the explosion when it happened and was the one to call 911.

“Barrett runs out of the room, and he’s on fire. My wife was burnt, some on her hands as well, trying to just get the fire out and remove the shirt from Barrett,” McKim told the New York Post. 

Barrett wasn't wearing a lab coat when the explosion occurred but instead a synthetic shirt, which also acted as an accelerant and made matters worse.

“When I got [home], she was still dousing him with water on the floor and just trying to keep things cool, moist and wet with cold water,” McKim said. “From the very time I came into the house, when he was screaming in pain, he wanted me to tell him the truth … asking if he’s going to die,” McKim told the media outlet.

“Most likely it will be a year or so before Barrett is back into the swing of things,” McKim told the New York Post. “Even with the healing of the skin, there’s just a whole other dynamic of the movement and stretching and the physical therapy that is of a real focus as well.”

Barrett went under his fourth surgery on July 7 according to a GoFundMe page to support Barrett’s family. The update on the page says that the boy’s fingers on his right hand are looking good but a few fingers on his left will need grafts.

Doctors have temporarily implanted cadaver skin grafts on Barrett, and they have been able to see new skin. It is believed that Barrett’s face will be able to heal completely without graphs, the New York Post reported.

According to the outlet, Barrett is unable to eat as he suffers burns in his mouth. Doctors have placed a feeding tube up his nose.

More than $87,000 has been gathered through the GoFundMe page. Family members utilize it as a daily blog to inform the public about his recovery.

“As horrible as this situation is, we have felt the prayers and those lifting Barrett up and certainly feel that the Lord is working in this for our good and for Barrett,” McKim told the New York Post.

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