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Who is Barrett McKim? Homeschooled boy, 12, who burnt half his body in science experiment, responding to treatment

Barrett said he's really looking forward to seeing his brothers and sisters once he gets out of the hospital
UPDATED JUL 30, 2022
Barrett McKim is currently recovering from his severe burns (GoFundMe)
Barrett McKim is currently recovering from his severe burns (GoFundMe)

A scientific experiment gone horribly awry left a 12-year-old homeschooled child with horrible second and third-degree burns covering nearly half of his body. It was five weeks ago, on June 23, that Barrett McKim had accidently set himself ablaze in his home in Highland,North Carolina.

This took place while he was conducting an experiment gone wrong involving rubbing alcohol and a Bunsen burner. Barrett is currently being treated in the ICU at the Burn Care Center in Augusta, Georgia. Although more information on the experiment is still unknown, rubbing alcohol and Bunsen burners are frequently utilized in a variety of lab projects.


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Caroline McKim, his mother, reported hearing a big pop before Barrett ran outside with his entire body on fire. Caroline hurried to his aid while attempting to douse the fire. During her attempt at rescue, Caroline sustained serious burns to her hands and arms too.
The two were rushed to an Augusta hospital, where Barrett has had 10 surgeries, the most recent of which required major skin grafts. Caroline has just recently regained sensation in her hands and is undergoing physical treatment. Barrett reportedly had burns on his neck, torso, arms, hands, and legs when he was admitted to the hospital. The 12-year-old child was enveloped in flames after the Bunsen burner he had been using sparked a container of rubbing alcohol. Caroline told WRDW-TV: "I thought something had fallen or something had cracked, maybe like a glass. And I got up, and as I was going to the front of the house, he came running out on fire, and his whole body is on fire. "
Caroline attempted to put out the fire by grabbing some pillows that were close by and beginning to pound Barrett with them. "It would not go out; the fire would not go out. I tried to get him down on the floor to get him to roll, and it would not go out. So, I just screamed out to God to give me some direction on what to do. We were right next to the kitchen, so I just put him on the floor next to the sink, and I got the sprayer from the sink, and I just started spraying him down," Caroline recalled.
According to the family, Caroline dialed 911 and kept misting water on Barrett until the paramedics came. The two were transported by flight from their home in North Carolina to the burn facility in Augusta. "He did not have any skin. From his fingertips down to his knees. And some parts were white. Just white. He was wearing his goggles during this experiment, which we think saved his eyes," said Caroline. It is not known what experiment the child was working on on the day of the mishap.
In the five weeks that have passed since the horrible tragedy, Barrett has made huge progress toward his rehabilitation, which will take years. "A couple of times a day, we’re getting up and out of the bed, trying to walk and move, and he’s doing really well," Kyle McKim, his father, told WLOS, "He continues to fight through the pain, and he forces himself to do physical therapy, so he’s doing well there."
Barrett has now undergone ten operations, the most recent of which was performed on him on Wednesday, July 27. A skin transplant was carried out by surgeons using healthy tissue from his body. Caroline said, "They ended up taking skin from the back of his thighs that were not burned, his entire back. Then, on the front of his thighs, he had had second-degree burns that had actually healed, and they took skin from the healed second-degree burns for his grafts."
Barrett's family is taking his rehabilitation day by day but reports that doctors are hopeful he could be able to leave the hospital in the next week or two. Barrett's parents claimed that this week marked a huge development when he was able to walk up and down a flight of stairs. Barrett will still be recovering until he gets home, though, and will need to wear bandages, go to physical therapy, and get pain medication.
Kyle told WLOS-TV: "We’re probably looking at, from what we’re hearing, probably an 18-month to a two-year road of some of the ongoing physical therapy." Barrett, who spoke to WLOS-TV on Wednesday, July 27, said he is starting to feel better. He also mentioned that he's really looking forward to seeing his brothers and sisters once he gets out of the hospital. He also said he's excited to practice archery again. Caroline noted that she is also started to recover from her own injuries sustained during the accident. "I’m working on the physical therapy, just to get the movement back and just be able to grip again and that sort of thing," she said.
The McKim family expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support they have gotten, saying they feel really lucky. A GoFundMe campaign was set up to assist with Barrett's medical costs and had amassed more than $152,000. The family also said how cards have been delivered to the hospital from all around the country to cheer up Barrett. "We have received cards from people in Colorado, in Michigan, Hawaii, people that we don’t even know that are just saying, "We’re praying for you and we’re thinking about you and we hope you get better," said Caroline. "We’re very grateful. As hard as it’s been, we continue to count our blessings with what the Lord has done with his healing and protection for us," Kyle expressed.