MINNEAPOLIS - Jennifer Phillips' daughter Arionna is a spunky 8-year-old outdoorsy pageant winner.
“She's a little spitfire,” Phillips said.
But Arionna – known as “Onna” – had her life forever changed one evening in northern Minnesota while enjoying a backyard bonfire at her dad's house.
“My son had a gas can in his hand and he had friends over, too. He went to put a little bit of gas on the fire,” Phillips said.
You can imagine what happened next.
“It was very much a life-threatening type of injury,” said Dr. Ryan Fey, HCMC’s Burn Program Director.
Burns cover half of Onna's body. Over the last five weeks, Hennepin County Medical Center doctors have performed 10 surgeries and she'll likely be there into the new year.
“When I first walked in, I almost passed out. It was really hard to see her hurt. Burnt,” Phillips said.
But her mom is seeing progress.
“Today is the first day she talked and the first thing she said to me is, 'Hi Mommy.' And of course, I started crying. So, she told me to stop crying. And she started crying and together we decided to stop crying, because it was happy tears,” Phillips said.
At the same time, Jennifer worries.
“Kids making fun of her. That kind of thing. I know bullying is a big issue. So, I just hope that nobody will make fun of her and belittle her,” Phillips said.
“To see a child who's perfectly healthy and fine one minute to suffer such devastating injury like this, it's devastating. What's also devastating about it, though, is that it's completely preventable,” Fey said.
Dr. Fey wants to warn everyone of the risks of pouring gasoline on fire.
Jennifer sadly knows that even a warning is sometimes not enough.
“They knew. They know the difference that they're not allowed to use stuff like that because it's dangerous. But, still,” Phillips said.
The Menahga VFW is holding a fundraiser on Nov. 25 to help the family with medical bills.
Onna also has a GoFundMe page to accept donations.