East County mom says her faith has been strengthened by horrifying accident .
Her family’s pain has led to a strengthening of faith for an East County woman as Christmas approaches.
Eirinn Camphire encountered a situation no mother ever wants to face. Her 17-year-old son, Cormac, was severely burned Sept. 30 while using gasoline to burn a pile of wood and brush on their property, just west of Interstate 75 and south of State Road 64.
But while her son has worked his way through months of painful recovery, Eirinn said she has felt God’s grace every step of the journey.
“It’s been amazing,” said Eirinn, a parishioner at Peace Presbyterian Church in Lakewood Ranch. “Nobody is ever really alone. It is an amazing feeling to be prayed for by so many. It’s still moving and there is a lot to be grateful for. I think we’re blessed.”
Most might find it hard to be blessed after what transpired Sept. 30.
Eirinn was preparing to take children from Peace Presbyterian Church on a field trip when she noticed she had missed several calls from her 15-year-old son, Finn.
She called him back, and his words stopped the mom in her tracks. An ambulance was on its way to their East County home. Cormac had been burned badly in an explosion. Her husband, Christian, had been burned, too.
“I was horrified, and I knew I needed to get to them immediately,” said Eirinn, the director of ministries to children, youth and families at Peace Presbyterian Church.
Friends took her place watching the children at Peace Presbyterian and started spreading the request for prayer as Eirinn raced home.
“I drove and prayed — and cried a bit, of course,” Eirinn said. “I saw the ambulance ahead of me. I assumed it was them. It turned out of our neighborhood.”
Eirinn followed the ambulance to Blake Medical Center, where Cormac and Christian would be treated for burns. Christian had burns on his shoulder and was treated and released. Meanwhile, doctors treated Cormac, who was sent to the intensive care unit with second- and third-degree burns on almost 40% of his body.
“We had about a dozen people from Peace (Presbyterian) visit us at the hospital in the next 24 hours to provide prayers, food and support,” Eirinn said. “Cormac was in isolation, so it would be a few weeks before he was able to see nonfamily members.”
In the wake of Hurricane Irma last year, the Camphires had accumulated a pile of wood and brush too large to be hauled away by Manatee County’s yard collection services. A pile of brush was stacked 6 feet tall and 15 feet long.
Christian and Cormac threw paper and cardboard atop the pile and tried to start a fire. When it didn’t work, they found a gas can. Cormac tossed gasoline on the pile and lit a flame.
He heard a sucking sound, then the air itself seemed to be on fire.
“Instinctively, I closed my eyes and put my arm up to my face,” Cormac said.
It was too late.
He dove to the ground and began to roll, knowing his body was on fire. He swatted his red hair and looked at his arms.
“I saw my skin peeling off,” Cormac said.
Stripping off most of his clothes, he ran inside to rinse off any chemicals. Christian also had jumped away after being burned. He was running toward the house.
Finn pulled up in the family’s driveway, just moments after the blast.
He heard Cormac shout to call 911 and he followed orders.
Finn called his mother next.
“It was divine intervention he was there,” she said.
Cormac spent the next 10 days in ICU and in the coming weeks underwent six different surgeries from Oct. 1 to Nov. 27 to deal with the blisters, clear dead skin and complete skin graphs. On Oct. 3, Cormac had allographs, skin taken from cadavers, stapled all over his body — about 800 staples in total.
It was painful, but Cormac didn’t complain. Pain medication helped, and so did his resolve.
“He looked like a patchwork quilt,” Eirinn said.
Doctors took skin from Cormac’s thighs and graphed it to his arms. More surgeries, therapies and recovery followed.
After being discharged Oct. 30 from inpatient rehabilitation, there were setbacks because of infection, but Cormac handled them in stride. He says it hurt, but talks about it as if he had a Band-Aid ripped off — no big deal.
“No complaints, no self-pity, he just wants to get back to his normal activities after this bump in the road,” Eirinn wrote in one post on the family’s Caring Bridge blog.
Eirinn said the incident has showed her God’s faithfulness.
“I think God was with him and walking with him, making sure the right people were in the right place,” she said.
She said so many things could have turned out differently — from the timing of Flinn’s arrival, to the fact Blake Medical Center is a burn center and that Cormac’s body could have been more damaged by the flames.
Nearly every blog post contains words of blessings — thankfulness for the staff at Blake and for the support of family and friends.
Cormac remained strong through the process, even telling his parents to go home after the first night in the trauma unit because there was nothing they could do except watch him rest in bed.
“I see the church as a helping hand through this,” Cormac said. “I think that’s the whole mission of the church.”
Although the toughest parts of Cormac’s recovery are over, the road to healing is still lengthy. He still must go to therapy and be mindful of what his body is ready to do.
At Braden River High School, he was active in track and JROTC. In January, he hopes to resume classes, but he plans to follow his body’s lead and not overdo it. He only has one required class left to graduate, he said.
Cormac said he has embraced the challenge of healing.
“I’m just focused on moving forward,” he said.