Saturday's 'Kid Captain': Jacob Endress

Oct. 1, 2009

IOWA CITY, Iowa — What began as a family gathering in May 2009, with laughter and children playing, ended with an ambulance ride to the Burn Treatment Center at University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. Six-year-old Jacob Endress, of Geneseo, Illinois, was playing with his cousins when he fell backwards into a fire pit at his grandparents’ home.

To extricate himself, he pushed his right hand into the hot coals. Quick action by his grandmother and parents got him to the local emergency room, where the medical staff determined Jacob needed the specialized burn care available at UI Children’s Hospital.

“It was such an innocent playtime in the back yard,” says Chris Endress, Jacob’s father. But, “In a moment’s notice, Jacob fell into the fire pit, and it’s changed his life forever.” With extensive third-degree burns to his buttocks, arm, and hand, Jacob spent 10 days in the Burn Treatment Center, missing his last week of school to undergo skin graft surgery, daily “burn baths,” and physical exercise and therapy to treat his extremely painful injuries.

Through it all, he maintained a positive attitude in address¬ing his recovery. “The nurses said he was tougher than most adult patients,” Chris says.

That determination has remained strong as Jacob continues his recovery. After his initial hospital stay, he returned to UI Children’s Hospital for daily follow-up treatment and now visits a Quad Cities clinic for physical therapy. “He’s doing really well,” Chris says. “He’s got excellent mobility in his elbows and wrists and is working on the fingers.”

Jacob even finished out the season with his T-ball team and has continued his other athletic pursuits–soccer and Tae Kwon Do. The pain from his injury is gone, except for what he experiences when stretching his fingers, and he wears a protective compression sleeve. “Jacob has used his experience to show his friends that, even though his body is scarred, he is still the same kid and can do everything he puts his heart into,” Chris says.

Chris and his wife, Mary, are deeply grateful for the care Jacob received at UI Children’s Hospital. They appreciate his physicians taking time to explain the treatment and what to expect, and have especially kind words for the nurses, therapists, and child life specialists who “cared for Jacob as if he were their own child.” They also want to “remind parents to be mindful of fire pits and bonfires. When we were at the burn unit, we learned how many kids are injured in bonfires.”

Jacob’s two older sisters, Lauren and Megan, and the many Hawkeye fans in Geneseo are cheering Jacob on as Kid Captain and wishing him a happy seventh birthday on Oct. 5.