Child recovers from grease burns; nurse offers more than medical - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Child recovers from grease burns; nurse offers more than medical help

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Shaun Benson, 1, pulled a pot of hot grease from a stove and suffered severe burns to his face and chest back in June. Shaun Benson, 1, pulled a pot of hot grease from a stove and suffered severe burns to his face and chest back in June.
Shaun Benson, recovering from grease burns Shaun Benson, recovering from grease burns
Regional Burn Center nurse Heath Leeper is uniquely experienced to help burn victims, having suffered severe burns himself as a teen. Regional Burn Center nurse Heath Leeper is uniquely experienced to help burn victims, having suffered severe burns himself as a teen.
SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - An Alexandria family knows the horror that can unfold in a matter of seconds when a toddler gets hold of a pot of hot grease. It happened in early June to 1-year-old Shaun Benson, and it spilled all over his face and chest.

“Pain, he just cries, and he tries to touch his face and he touched it and I was trying to keep his hands from touching it because he doesn’t know what’s going on. He touched his face and he just screamed, I was like oh my gosh,” recalls his mother, Tiffany Benson. “I was thinking that 'I hope my son doesn’t die,' I was hoping my son would make it.”

A nearly 2 hour ambulance ride took the burned boy to the University Health Burn Unit. “We was afraid he was going to be blind, from the grease hitting his face. It’s a bad place for a parent, to see your child that hurt.”

He survived, but the horrific accident left little Shaun lying in a hospital bed with 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 30 percent of his body, pain medicine pumping through his veins. 

At his side is someone uniquely qualified to guide him through his recovery.  Burn unit nurse Heath Leeper has suffered the same pain, and now draws on that experience to help others. "There’s not enough pain medicine out there," Leeper says. "You give them enough, what they think they need, but at best, it alleviates the pain, meaning you get it to a point at which you feel like they can tolerate it.” 

Leeper 's uniform covers his scar, but he's not afraid to share them with other patients, as evidence that burns heal. “The first question a burn patient is going to say is, 'Well you don’t know what I’m going through.' And I can sit here and share my experience with them and there’s a big difference between sympathy and empathy, one being you know what they’re going through and another one you’re just feeling sorry for them.”

At 14, Leeper’s arm, stomach, and back caught on fire when he was trying to burn trash in his family’s yard. “The back of the can blew out on me. We lived on a bluff, I ran and dove in the lake.”

After nearly a month in the University Hospital burn unit, the teenage Leeper was released. He says the physical pain stopped, but some scars left behind from that day can’t be seen by the human eye. “Right after my accident, I went through probably a year of waking up at night with nightmares and I try to encourage them and tell them that it will get better over time,” Leeper says.

He says he believes that telling his story helps patients and their family find the strength to heal. It has for Shaun, who has been released from the hospital. His mother, Tiffany says he has improved a great deal, and is due back for a checkup in a week.

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