October 14, 2022 is a day most will look back on with sadness. An evening meant for fun and laughter turned into a night of panic and pain. A bonfire tragedy caused physical injury to 33 people, and emotional pain to probably everyone in attendance and the Pulaski community.
Benjamin is one of the people that was severely injured when his clothing caught fire and he was knocked unconscious for part of the time. He suffered burns on almost 40% of his body.
His hands, legs, lower back and face were all affected. His hands and legs endured the most burns. The legs and hands he uses daily for his construction job and to enjoy his lifelong hobbies of hunting and fishing. Benjamin’s family and friends describe him as a hard worker, caring, funny with a strong faith that includes his family.
Many of the young victims were rushed to the Ascension Columbia St. Mary's Regional Burn Center in Milwaukee. Benjamin was there from October 15 to December 9, 2022. He was the last of the burn victims to be released from the hospital and had three surgeries during his stay including two skin grafts.
“There was one nurse, Meghan, that he formed a close bond with. When he was upset or scared, she would talk to him and even bring her work into his room and sit with him while she worked,” said Julie, Benjamin’s mom. “He didn’t want to talk about what happened, but he would open up to her. She would also sit with me and listen to me cry, give me a hug and tell me everything will be okay in time. It meant the world to us at the time.”
“There was also a staff member, Dee, that he felt was like a grandma to him,” Julie added. “She sat right outside his room. She would always check on us, talk to us and ask if we needed anything.”
As a 6’5” young adult, Benjamin required special accommodations to ensure that he was in a comfortable environment at all times. Knowing this, the staff worked to find him a bed that would comfortably fit him.
“There were two doctors that worked with Benjamin, but his main doctor was Dr. Fehring. The kindness and patience he showed us helped us. He sat and answered our questions and took the time to explain things to us,” Julie said. “Benjamin worked with Dr. Meyers after discharge and he performed the laser surgeries that he had. He too was patient and answered all the questions we had. Overall, everyone was great to work with.”
As Benjamin continues to recover, support from his family and the community keep him going. In March 2023, Benjamin was able to return part-time to his construction job. He is now working full-time and enjoys fishing an hunting. He still gets sore and tired many days as he continues to heal, but he has come a long way on his journey to recovery.
Thanks to donor generosity to Ascension Wisconsin Foundation, more than $2,000,000 of support has been invested in care provided at the Burn Center. Recently, new radiant heat panels and patient lifts were purchased to support this care. Thank you to our donors for making this possible.