A 7-year-old Sea Cliff girl severely burned on Easter Sunday returned to Nassau University Medical Center on Tuesday to thank the staff who cared for her during a hospital stayed that lasted almost two months.
Frances Shea Breen, who had been burned over almost half her body, skipped along the sixth-floor hallways of the hospital’s Burn Center, humming tunes and hugging doctors, nurses and support staff.
But she clammed up when the television cameras began to roll to record her story. Under prodding from publicist Todd Shapiro, she finally blurted out: “I like grapes.” After a round of laughter, she added: “And tacos.”
Dr. Peter Ciminera, head of the hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, praised the youngster’s courage.
“Having her standing here with us upright after such an ordeal is just an incredible miracle,” Ciminera said. “She’s a wonderful patient, a very strong patient for a child with such an extensive injury.”
Breen was playing in the backyard of the family home when a gust of wind blew the flames of a fire pit toward her, igniting her Easter dress, her mother, Molly Deegan-Breen said.
The youngster ran into the house where a relative, who is an emergency room doctor at another hospital, wrapped her in a blanket to extinguish the flames.
Chief Mark Vitale said he and other members of the Sea Cliff Fire Department arrived to perform first aid. A Nassau County police helicopter landed in Clifton Park across the street within minutes and flew her to NUMC, where a burn-treatment team was standing by.
“Everything happened in our favor that day,” her father, John Breen, said. “Everyone was in place and everyone knew what to do,” he said.
Her mother said her daughter’s “miraculous recovery from life-threatening burns is a direct result of the talented and passionately dedicated doctors and nurses of Nassau University Medical Center.”
“When Frances had her accident, this hospital really became our home and the staff became our family in more ways than we can count ... They gave us the kind of day-to-day hope and support that we needed, we so desperately needed,” she said.
The girl was released from NUMC after 59 days and spent another 22 days in outpatient rehabilitation facility in Queens, hospital spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg said.
Another doctor, Louis H. Riina, praised the girl’s upbeat attitude. “It took an awful lot of work to get to this point, getting up and working through the tightness and working through the pain,” he said.