Frances Breen spent more than two months in the hospital this year.
A 7-year-old part-time Mattituck resident, she was badly burned following a freak firepit accident Easter Sunday.
Now, her mother, Molly Deegan-Breen, a marketing executive at Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue, and father, John, are doing all they can to make people aware of the top-notch, life-saving care their daughter received at Nassau University Medical Center’s burn center.
On March 26, the Breens and about 40 family members had gathered at their Sea Cliff home for an Easter celebration when disaster struck. A gust of wind blew a blazing firepit ember onto Frances’ Easter dress, igniting the girl’s clothes within seconds.
Frances ran into the family’s living room, where her aunt, emergency physician Mary Deegan-Haff, tackled the young girl and rolled her in a blanket.
By the time Ms. Deegan-Breen reached the room, there was smoke emanating from her daughter.
“She looked at me and said, ‘Mommy, I never want to see fire again,’ ” Ms. Deegan-Breen recalled.
Minutes later, a helicopter touched down on a field near the Breens’ home. It took 16 minutes from the time Frances’ dress caught fire until the moment she reached the NUMC helipad, her mother said.
“Had we driven to East Meadow, that would have been 35 minutes,” Ms. Deegan-Breen said.
Shortly after Frances was admitted, her parents began processing the severity of the situation. The girl had suffered third- and fourth-degree burns on half her body and a happy and successful outcome was uncertain.
“The surgeon said, ‘You need to prepare to be here for two weeks,’ ” Ms. Deegan-Breen said. “Eighty-two days later, we were leaving the hospital.”
The biggest threats to Frances were blood poisoning and infections in her burn wounds, of which she ultimately suffered several.
A friend of the Deegan family, a large Catholic clan, somehow contacted a priest at the Vatican, who delivered a prayer intention for Frances to Pope Francis.
“The next day her infection went away,” her mother said.
Ms. Deegan-Breen, Mr. Breen and Frances presented the NUMC medical staff with a plaque last Monday, thanking them for saving Frances’ life. Her recovery made headlines across the region.
Today, 98 percent of Frances’ wounds have healed, though she will still need to undergo additional laser surgeries. She is back at Sea Cliff Elementary School, attending classes like any other second-grader.
“She is just an unbelievable kid,” said Ms. Deegan-Breen, who also has an 18-month-old son, James. “Her burns do not define her.”
Dr. Peter Ciminera, the hospital’s director of pediatric care, marveled at Frances’ will.
“She really went through a lot. She went through multiple operations, intense physical therapy,” he said. “It was a challenge for her, but she did it. Everybody is amazed at what she did.”
During a press conference, Frances demonstrated dance moves for reporters and talked about some of her favorite things.
“I like grapes,” she playfully told the crowd in East Meadow. “And tacos.”
Top photo: Frances Breen with her dog, Finbarr, outside the hospital one day after she was allowed outside for the first time in two months. (Credit: Courtesy)