McCrabb: Butler County child severely burned in bonfire now recovered as family looks back 1 year later

Drew Puckett, 3, plays at a park Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021 in Hanover Township. Puckett was treated by Shriner's Children's Ohio for severe burns to his feet last year after he walked through hot coals that remained after a campfire. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Caption
Drew Puckett, 3, plays at a park Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021 in Hanover Township. Puckett was treated by Shriner's Children's Ohio for severe burns to his feet last year after he walked through hot coals that remained after a campfire. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

One year later: ‘We are extremely lucky it wasn’t what it could have been.’

Drew Puckett was oblivious to the commotion around him.

He was at Hanover Park on a hot and humid Thursday morning with his mother, younger brother, Aiden, and grandmother along with two members of the media and a representative from Shriners Children’s Ohio.

His mother was being interviewed while Drew’s picture was being taken.

He didn’t care. He was sitting on a miniature green bulldozer and was content scooping up rocks and sand in the bucket. His face, bare feet and clothes were covered in dirt.

Drew Puckett, 3, plays at a park Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021 in Hanover Township. Puckett was treated by Shriner's Children's Ohio for severe burns to his feet last year after he walked through hot coals that remained after a campfire. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Caption
Drew Puckett, 3, plays at a park Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021 in Hanover Township. Puckett was treated by Shriner's Children's Ohio for severe burns to his feet last year after he walked through hot coals that remained after a campfire. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

He was all boy, this 3-year-old Drew Puckett.

As his mother Abby Puckett sat on a nearby park bench, her mind flashed back one year to the afternoon of Sept. 1, 2020.

The night before, the Pucketts enjoyed a family bonfire by burning brush and tree limbs on their 46-acre farm.

It was steamy the next day and Puckett and her two sons were playing outside. It was time to give them a drink of water. She turned away.

“It was literally 40 seconds,” she said, snapping her fingers.

In that time, Drew walked away and stepped on the still hot ashes from the previous night’s fire. She grabbed Drew who was “screaming bloody murder” and carried him into the house to soak his feet in water. She said flesh was falling off his feet.

Fortunately, he didn’t fall into the fire, reducing the chances of burning a larger percentage of his body, she said.

She tried to call her husband’s cell phone, but he was cutting grass several hundred yards away. Her 8-year-old daughter Amelia ran and got her dad.

Drew Puckett, 3, plays at a park Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021 in Hanover Township. Puckett was treated by Shriner's Children's Ohio for severe burns to his feet last year after he walked through hot coals that remained after a campfire. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Caption
Drew Puckett, 3, plays at a park Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021 in Hanover Township. Puckett was treated by Shriner's Children's Ohio for severe burns to his feet last year after he walked through hot coals that remained after a campfire. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

They drove Drew to Fort Hamilton Hospital where ER doctors gave him pain medication, wrapped his feet and referred him to Cincinnati Shriners Hospital, now Shriners Children’s Ohio located in Dayton Children’s Hospital.

The doctors at Cincinnati Shriners labeled his burns first-, second- and third-degree. He received numerous treatments there and his parents, grandparents and neighbors continually cleaned and treated his wounds at home.

“It took a village,” Abby said about the medical care.

For weeks, Drew either crawled, was carried or used a wheelchair until his wounds healed. There are only a few scars, barely visible.

“He has come so far,” his mother said.

She also has learned some perspective during the ordeal.

As she visited Cincinnati Shriners during Drew’s treatments, she noticed all the children burned more severely. Some of the kids had fingers and toes amputated. She was worried about scars showing on Drew’s feet while he was swimming.

When she looked around the waiting room, she thought to herself: “How lucky I am. Why am I feeling sorry for him when all these kids have it worse?”

Still, she struggles with what happened on Sept. 1.

“I beat myself up for six months,” she said. “But people told me, ‘Accidents happen.’”

Drew Puckett, 3, plays at a park Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021 in Hanover Township. Puckett was treated by Shriner's Children's Ohio for severe burns to his feet last year after he walked through hot coals that remained after a campfire. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Caption
Drew Puckett, 3, plays at a park Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021 in Hanover Township. Puckett was treated by Shriner's Children's Ohio for severe burns to his feet last year after he walked through hot coals that remained after a campfire. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The Pucketts have changed how and when they burn brush. They only burn at night when their children are sleeping and hose the fire down. They also try to burn the night before rain is in the forecast.

“All it takes is a minute,” she said when asked what lesson was learned. “One minute and anything can happen. We are extremely lucky it wasn’t what it could have been.”

She stood up off the bench and held Aiden, 1, who was crying.

Meanwhile, Drew never stopped playing.

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