The lowest temperature at which vapors from a liquid will ignite is called the flash point. Gasoline, with a flash point of minus 45 degrees Fahrenheit, is one of the world’s most dangerous liquids, capable of catching fire or exploding from something as innocuous as static electricity.
Sixteen-year-old Timothy Courtney of Muncie, Ind., was about to find this out.
He and a college student were being paid to clear some woods. On July 25, 2006, they were trying to burn the piles they’d made, but the boys couldn’t get the brush to catch fire. An adult told them to use gasoline.
“The fire attacked Timothy,” said his mom, Kathy Courtney. “It was very quick; he didn’t even realize he’d been burned.”
Flames leapt up Timothy’s right arm and his neck, engulfing his face. Adults at a nearby house tried to cool the burns with a garden hose then drove Timothy to a hospital while they alerted his mom.
“When I walked into Ball Memorial Hospital, Timothy’s face was a deep, dark red, almost a scorched look. His eyebrows and eyelashes were singed off,” said Kathy. “He looked at me and said, ‘Mom, I’m OK.’ That was such a relief. He was alert, and I could look into his eyes.”
Doctors were afraid Timothy had inhaled fumes so they intubated him. He was then airlifted to
Indiana’s only pediatric burn center and placed in the care of Dr. John Coleman, chief of plastic surgery and director of the burn unit at Riley Hospital. When a nurse summoned family to Timothy’s bed at 5 a.m. the next morning, his mom admits she became a bit nauseous from seeing his raw skin. Later that day, nurses started scrubbing it to remove dead tissue.
“It was heart wrenching. They’d give him a double dose of pain medicine, but it was still excruciating,” Kathy said.
The teen faced the likelihood of skin grafts. In preparation, he needed to have two protein drinks a day; his mom got him drinking four or five. Miraculously, within a week of the accident, skin buds were growing – which meant no skin grafts. Today, Timothy has only a small scar on his nose and on one wrist.
Kathy said Riley Hospital nurses and Timothy’s friends helped the teen stay positive.
“I figured worse things could have happened,” Timothy said. “The nurses were great all the time; they even brought me a computer to use. And many people came to see me. For the first three or four days I was awake, I constantly had people in my room. Knowing people cared really helped.”
Kelly Wittman, Timothy’s principal, wasn’t surprised by her student’s attitude. As a student council member, he helps host the school’s annual Riley Hospital fundraising dinner.
“Tim represents the best of what a principal hopes to see in her students,” Kelly wrote when she nominated him to be a Riley Champion. “He’s a wonderful young adult who cares about others and champions their success above his own. I’m proud to know Timothy Courtney. He shows me every day what it means to be a champion.”
In This Section
A Piece of Riley June 27, 2019
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Be the Star You Are May 22, 2019
Check out this behind the scenes look at the 2019 Riley Cancer Center Prom.×
Meet Rowan Breyts March 19, 2019
A baby dies in Indiana about every 14 hours. Rowan Breyts was not one of them. However, he came dangerously close.×
Christian's Research Story December 19, 2018
Learn how Riley research helped save Christian Daugherty's life.×
Kennedy's Story: How Family Support Helps December 19, 2018
Watch the Strayer Family's story about their Riley journey.×
Sheila and Jameson's Story December 19, 2018
Sheila Dolan shares how the donor-funded Riley Maternity and Newborn Health team saved her life, and her son’s life.×
Be the Hope NOW: The Campaign for Kids December 19, 2018
We have launched a $175 million campaign for Riley Hospital to save kids’ lives through three high-priority programs.×
Riley Leadership Message December 19, 2018
Hear from Riley leadership about supporting Be the Hope NOW: The Campaign for Kids.×
2018 Race for Riley October 8, 2018
Congratulations to Race for Riley on 22 years and nearly $4 million raised for the kids at Riley Hospital.×
Meet Hunter Schermerhorn September 27, 2018
A phone call from Hunter’s school nurse turned a life changing cancer diagnosis for the Schermerhorn family. See how Riley research is helping kids like Hunter and his family find the answers they desperately need.×