Eleven-year-old burn survivor Kaden Howard hopes his story will help others in a similar situation find their will and hope to get better.
Recently the C.P. Blakely student was named the 2020 Champion Child for the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton.
The title came with $500 for Howard to spend as he liked, which he admits was spent on some video games.
Being named the child champion means Howard will attend various events over the next year where he will tell his story and try to raise money for the Stollery and the Children’s Miracle Network.
When asked how he thinks his story will help inspire others, Howard responded, “That’s where I’m confused.”
“Kaden doesn’t understand just how amazing he is,” said Kristy-Lee Bolton, Howard’s mother.
Howard was camping and quading with his father, and while gassing up his quad on a hot day during the May long weekend in 2018 something sparked and he was engulfed in a ball of fire.
Bolton said she is so grateful for those who were nearby and helped Howard when it happened, saying the oil field training of those nearby saved Howard’s life.
“They removed his shirt before wrapping him in cold wet linens, and that is something I never would have thought of,” Bolton said, adding, “It took a minute and a half to get him wrapped up and into an ambulance.”
Before being admitted to the Stollery, Howard was taken to the hospital in Rocky Mountain House and then transported to Edmonton with the help of STARS Air Ambulance.
He was in a medically induced coma for almost two weeks, in isolation for 52 days, had several grafting surgeries to treat the burns that covered 70 per cent of his body from the neck down, and a surgery on his arm.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. When he was in isolation I couldn’t even touch him… We didn’t know what to expect and we just took it one day at a time,” Bolton said.
Howard defied all odds, and said he was determined to not only walk, but to live a normal life and to play hockey again.
One day he woke up and told his mother that he was going to walk that day.
“I didn’t think much of it, but I told him we would try. He took eight steps that day,” Bolton said. “He took more the next day and the next. We stopped counting after 300.”
Howard says he doesn’t remember much of his time in the hospital, but he remembers enjoying aspects of it, like playing at the beach – an area set up for patients in the Stollery.
He played Xbox a lot, and used that to get other children around him to have hope, though he didn’t know it.
One instance had Howard asking another child to come play Xbox after comparing the accidents that led them to their stay in the Stollery.
“I remember the boy’s dad had tears in his eyes and thanked us. The boy hadn’t been out of bed in two weeks and had barely eaten anything, and Kaden came along and just asked if he wanted to play Xbox,” said Bolton.
Howard’s determination to be a normal kid was so intense, that four months after the accident, he was discharged. Three days after being discharged he was back to school.
One month later, Howard hit the ice with his hockey team.
He says he doesn’t really remember playing hockey or skating for the first time after the accident. Bolton says there was a lot of smiles and tears seeing him skating again.
“I wasn’t very fast, but I kept up with everyone,” Howard said after watching a short clip of his first game.
Howard says he dreams of one day playing for the Red Deer Rebels in the WHL.