140 year of Shriners

140 year of Shriners

Friday, January 23, 2009

Long road to recovery

From left, Tailey Abbott, Paul Abbott, Isiss McCann, Crystal McCann and Shantasta Abbott pose for a picture at their home in Santa Maria. Isiss, 3, suffered severe burns in a New Mexico trailer fire when she was 8 months old. //Ian Gonzaga/Staff

By Natalie Ragus/Staff Writer Santa Maria,Ca.
For Santa Maria resident Crystal McCann, the journey to hell and back began with a two-minute phone call from her neighbor.

Three years ago while living in New Mexico, McCann received news at work that the double-wide trailer she shared with her 8-month-daughter, Isiss, had caught fire.

Worse yet, Isiss had suffered severe burns over most of her tiny body and was en route to the emergency room.

McCann’s neighbor couldn’t tell her whether Isiss would live or die.

While Isiss, now 3, ultimately survived the fire, her course in life — and that of her mother — changed forever.

“It was hard at first,” said McCann, 26. “It took me a long time to accept it. It took me a long time to realize that it actually happened to me. You never think it can happen to you.”

The days immediately following the fire remain hazy for McCann. Doctors in New Mexico ordered Isiss airlifted to a hospital in Lubbock, Texas, but the infant’s injuries proved so severe only Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston had the setup necessary to help her: Third-degree burns covered 57 percent of Isiss’ upper body.

McCann’s parents traveled from their home in Santa Ynez to Texas to support her, but when Isiss’ roughly four-month hospital stay ended, the single mother found herself mainly on her own.

Eventually, McCann moved back to Santa Ynez to better care for Isiss, whose initial discharge from the hospital only marked the beginning of a long road to recovery.

The seemingly endless list of surgical procedures Isiss still must undergo means she and her mother find themselves regularly traveling between Shriners Hospital for Children in Sacramento and the Santa Maria home they keep with McCann’s fianc/, Paul Abbott, and his two daughters, Tailey, 7, and Shantasta, 5.

Every time Isiss experiences a growth spurt, she must go to Sacramento to have her skin “stretched.” Reconstructive surgery on her hands has given Isiss some ability to use them again, and she will soon have surgery on her mouth and lips.

When Isiss returns home from surgeries, her mother changes her bandages, an excruciatingly painful experience for the youngster.

“It’s always, ‘What’s next?’” McCann said. “It’s not a burden, but it feels like that.”

Isiss’ condition has brought out the best and the worst in everyone around her.

Shortly after the fire occurred, a woman berated McCann for bringing Isiss to a Galveston park, saying the baby “was so disgusting she made her lose her appetite.” However, people frequently come up to Isiss in public, hug her and call her an angel.

The accident has also revealed a determined side in Isiss. While making candy necklaces with Tailey and Shantasta for Christmas, Isiss managed to use her stub-like fingers to slide the candy onto the string all by herself — much to the astonishment of everyone.

She acts every inch the typical 3-year-old.

During a recent interview, Isiss jumped onto the couch before declaring her desire to be Tinkerbell when she grows up.

When asked to name her favorite game, Isiss was quick to answer: “I like to play house,” she said.

Then, she got off the couch, impatient to resume an activity with her soon-to-be stepsisters. Abbott and McCann, who started dating when McCann first returned to Santa Ynez following the fire, plan to marry a year from now.

“We like playing with her. She’s fun,” Shantasta said of Isiss.

When asked if she worries about her daughter’s future, McCann said she worries no more than any typical mother.

“(Isiss’) attitude is so positive, and if we keep a positive attitude then she’ll always have a positive attitude about her life,” she said.

January 23, 2009

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