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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Lake City toddler recovering after falling into fire pit

<p>One-year-old Nola Lee Peterson is recovering after being treated at Shands at UF for second- and third-degree burns that covered 10 percent of her body.</p>

One-year-old Nola Lee Peterson is recovering after being treated at Shands at UF for second- and third-degree burns that covered 10 percent of her body.

Nola Lee Peterson toddled toward the foot-deep fire pit.

She'd been good about staying on her side of the yard — the side far away from the flames where her parents were prepping dinner on a mid-November evening.

The 16-month-old eased closer, getting bolder as she neared the embers.

Her dad went to move her away from the fire, but she was startled. She tumbled into the flames.

For the next few weeks, the Lake City residents spent day and night near their daughter as she was treated at Shands at UF. Countless doctors cared for the second- and third-degree burns that covered 10 percent of the child's body.

With the new year comes new challenges for the Peterson family. They've been able to make ends meet so far, but they're asking for help to pay Nola's long-term medical needs, including occupational therapy to teach her to use her recovering hand.

"This little girl's been through a lot, and she's tough, tough, tough," her dad, Keith Peterson, said. "It's hard to see a baby go through things like that."

Nola fell in and, swoop, she was out.

Her dad's arms surrounded her, and he held her on the ambulance stretcher. Nola lay on top of him. She cried as strangers prodded her, and the numbing shock wore off.

At the hospital, medical workers scrubbed and scoured Nola's body of burned tissue.

Next came her first surgery. Then a second.

Doctors were able to save Nola's left pinky and ring fingers, which had gotten the worst of the burns.

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The surgeries and hospitalizations are over for now, and the Petersons are prepping for Nola's long-term care.

Scrunched scar tissue remains on the back of her hand and on her wrist where the skin grafts were added.

But when Nola plays, she uses her right hand to put mulch in a yellow dump truck or to pull herself onto a bench. She keeps her injured hand in a claw-like clamp, sometimes holding it behind her back.

Her blonde Shirley-Temple-like curls stick to her head as she giggles and bounds over to her dad. He holds out his right hand. After a moment, she grabs his hand with her left hand, which is still bent but has relaxed some.

She looks at him with bright blue eyes - her dad's eyes.

The scar tissue keeps her skin tight and makes it hard for her to use her hand. That's why, her parents said, she needs hand therapy.

Nola will also need to see a massage therapist to break up the tough scars, and the family drives from Lake City so Nola can see a doctor at Shands at UF twice a week.

Between the gas bills, the toddler-friendly pain medication and the rehabilitation, the Petersons estimate their expenses will be $4,000 to $5,000 - most of which their insurance won't cover.

Right after Nola's accident, family and friends donated $2,500 to the Petersons so Nola's mom could take time off work.

The time frame for that cushion is about to end. Friends and strangers have donated an additional $2,800 for Nola's long-term care. To cover the rest of the cost, Emily Peterson said she might go back to her job as a store manager, and Keith would continue to be a stay-at-home dad.

No matter what it takes, her parents said, they'll do what they have to do to get Nola the care she needs, even if it means working more hours or taking out a loan.

"Whatever we have to do to make it happen, we'll do it," Emily Peterson said.

To donate to Nola's medical fund, visit wepay.com/donate/171996.

One-year-old Nola Lee Peterson is recovering after being treated at Shands at UF for second- and third-degree burns that covered 10 percent of her body.

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