Springfield boy, 12, recovers from ordeal
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | July 28,2013
Photo by Len Emery
Ian Treadway of Springfield, recovered from his near-electrocution at a power substation, is back to doing what he loves.
SPRINGFIELD — Ian Treadway zips up and down Merrill Street in Springfield, effortlessly making turns and curls on his Rollerblades, his skinny 12-year-old legs flashing.
No one would know he almost died two months ago.
The only clue might be that his left arm doesn’t really bend, and it’s covered by a tight, beige elastic bandage. He’s got on a new helmet and elbow and knee pads, too — safety concessions to his still-recovering body.
It could be 10 years before he is fully recovered from the severe burns he suffered at a Green Mountain Power substation, just down the road from his family’s home on Merrill Street.
His mother, Kassie Hoisington, says there is almost no chance Ian would have survived if he had actually touched the 46,000-volt equipment.
But when he got too close, she says, he suffered severe, life-threatening flash burns on his neck, shoulder, arms and back, as well as burns on his face.
Ian doesn’t remember much about the accident, and doesn’t know why he disregarded the warning signs and wiggled between the locked gates at the substation, which is a short distance from his house.
Ian recalls a “big boom” and falling to the ground. He kept trying to get up, he says, but emergency responders kept telling him not to move.
He was with two friends. He says he didn’t climb the chain-link fence as police first reported; the fence is topped with barbed wire.
“I hope they make it safer,” is all he will say now.
Ian’s skating last week, under his mother’s watchful eye, was a celebration of sorts: His doctors at Shriners Hospital for Children in Boston had just given him clearance two days earlier to resume the active life of a 12-year-old. The only warning was no contact sports, said Ian, an avid baseball player whose positions are pitcher, catcher and shortstop.
“I can’t do a lot of the things I usually do,” he says.
He can’t play contact sports because someone could injure his still healing skin, causing it to break down.
“I’ve touched my nose twice,” he says with more than a bit of pride over his progress in bending his skin-grafted left arm.
To look at his face now, you can’t tell that it was a bloody mess on May 14, his mother says.
Hoisington holds her son’s face and shows the slightly reddish scars under his eyes. It’s obvious she is seeing something else that she won’t soon forget.
“His face was a mess,” she says.
Ian’s eyebrows and his eyelashes have grown back, and the brown hair on top of his head looks just fine.
But he bends over and brushes his hair away: There is a burned bald spot on the back of his head.
Doctors could eventually make that spot grow hair again, but Ian says he just plans to brush his hair over the spot.
The grafted skin on his left arm is literally too tight for him to bend it, he says, although he is doing daily exercises and sees a physical therapist at home twice a week. Another operation and skin graft, and another operation to remove scar tissue under his arm, are in his future.
“He can touch his hands,” says his mother. “But he doesn’t have a lot of mobility in his shoulder.”
Ian and his close friend Tim Bapp, also 12, are at the inseparable age. They will both enter seventh grade at Riverside Middle School in Springfield at the end of August; they have another month of summer vacation together.
The melded Treadway-Hoisington family has lived on Merrill Street for seven years, and Ian has two brothers and a sister.
Hoisington says before Ian’s accident, the family were putting an addition on the back of the house so Ian could have his own room. Right now, that project is temporarily on hold. “We haven’t done anything on it,” she says.
The day Ian was injured, Hoisington had been sent home from work because the incident at the substation had cut electricity to all of downtown Springfield and as far away as Chester.
When she got to Merrill Street, she saw all the emergency vehicles and feared the worst.
Ian’s mother and stepfather Jeff Treadway were driven to Boston by Springfield Police Chief Douglas Johnston and Lt. Mark Fountain. The ride was just a high-speed blur, Hoisington says, because she didn’t know whether Ian had survived.
He had been airlifted from Springfield Hospital to Massachusetts General Hospital: after several hours of tests he was immediately transferred next door to Shriners Hospital.
Ian didn’t appear to have any internal injuries, she says.
At Shriners, Ian was in an drug-induced coma, wrapped up like a mummy and in a plastic bubble. Hoisington slept on a couch in his room, talking and reading to him and praying he would survive.
The first week was horrible, she says. He was in critical condition for 15 days.
After the first week, the doctors were more optimistic, but warned Hoisington that a lot of complications could develop.
“And you have to sign waivers any time they did anything to Ian,” she says.
His left arm was burned the worst, she says, and there were burns on his chest and back.
“He was unrecognizable,” Hoisington says. “His face was completely disfigured.”
The only sign of encouragement, she said, was that Ian slightly squeezed her hand and wiggled his toes, ever so slightly.
“I think it was to the music, I think it was a trumpet,” Ian recalls, making a joke for his mother.
Doctors took skin grafts from his legs to replace the burned skin, she said, doing six grafts in all
Three other children or teenagers were in the intensive care unit, Ian says, all of them burn patients.
One put gasoline on a camp fire, one had a sparkler ignite her dress, and another was fixing a motorcycle, Ian says.
Hoisington says Ian’s two main doctors were Dr. Robert Sheridan, and Dr. Phillip Chang.
“Who was the one with the tiny scissors?” Ian asks his mother.
Hoisington joined Facebook while at the hospital as a way of communicating with people back in Springfield. She doesn’t have a computer at home and hasn’t posted anything since they got back to Springfield in mid-June.
She says the family is very private. The community support has been wonderful, she says, but it’s been very hard for her to tell strangers the details of Ian’s injuries and healing.
“That’s why I’m doing this interview, so people will know,” she says.
Out of concern for the family’s privacy, she didn’t want Ian’s doctors to talk about his injuries and recovery.
Hoisington says that her health insurance at work has covered all of Ian’s medical bills, and the Shriner’s organization has helped tremendously as well, but nothing covers lost wages and other problems.
She has gone back to work as a bank teller in a local credit union, and keeps an eye on Ian as much as any mother can.
Hoisington says the recovery has been miraculous, which she attributed to “good genes” as well as prayer and expert medical care.
Now, Ian wears pressure garments to protect his new skin and keep the scars flat. He will likely have to wear the pressure vest for two years, his mother says. Right now, Ian’s upper left arm is an angry red and he says the veins and arteries stick out on his forearm.
Hoisington says she wrote poems to her son as he lay in a coma for 2½ weeks, and filled two notebooks with painful thoughts she felt at the time. Ian was in the hospital for 32 days, and came home to Springfield on June 16.
She read one of the writings to him again last week: “As I sit alone, thinking of you. I gather my thoughts on what I should do. I just want to sit by your bedside, hold your hand and try not to cry. I feel so helpless and afraid. I know you are strong, I know you are brave. The doctors keep saying ‘one day at a time; hold on tight, it’s a long climb.’”
“I think we’re good,” she says now, looking at her son and Tim, his best friend since they met in the second grade. “We’re just getting back to normal life.”