Carmen Schleppy is a survivor in more ways than one. The bubbly nine year old has a contagious smile and a can-do attitude that has seen her through a horrific ordeal that began in May of 2011.
Carmen was trying to warm up by the fireplace in her Brazil, Ind., home when her skirt caught fire. Carmen was rushed to the hospital and immediately airlifted to Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, which offers the state’s only pediatric burn unit. She suffered burns on 60% of her body requiring nine surgeries and a three-month stay at Riley. Nurses helped Carmen get through painful dressing changes. Music therapy sessions offered through Riley’s Child Life program helped keep her spirits high. “The nurses made things for me and made me feel special,” said Carmen.
“The care they provided at Riley was outstanding” said Carmen’s mother, Colleen Schleppy. “The nurses were so encouraging. They continue to be a big part of her life.” The family is also thankful for Riley burn unit physician Rajiv Sood, M.D., who has worked with Carmen from the beginning. “Dr. Sood is compassionate yet to the point. He helped us better understand what to expect,” says Carmen’s father, Tony Schleppy. “I can’t think of any other place I would have wanted my daughter to be. The level of care she received was exceptional.” Carmen’s strong will and positive attitude helped her recover at a remarkable rate. Today she has extensive scarring, but she has regained enough mobility to participate in cheerleading – and even do the splits.
Carmen is now working to help other burn survivors. She raises money for Hoosier Burn Camp, which gives burn survivors a week of fun in a safe and nurturing environment. “We all get along and tell each other how we got hurt. We help each other stay strong,” explains Carmen. Carmen is also working with one of her former Riley nurses to start Compression for Compassion, a program to send compression garments to burn survivors in third world countries. She happily donated her own garments to the cause and encourages others to do the same. “Her resilience amazes me,” says Tony. “Through all of her pain she was always so positive, always kept her chin up.”