Family says divine timing saved boy after science experiment blast

Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 7:07 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A 12-year-old boy from Highlands, North Carolina is recovering from second and third-degree burns, covering half of his body after a science experiment blew up in his face.

Barrett McKim was life-flighted to the JMS Burn Center a few weeks ago.

His mom tells us he loves science, and he was working on an experiment when she heard a loud pop that changed their lives.

“I thought something had fallen or something had cracked, maybe like a glass. And I got up, and as I was going to the front of the house, he came running out on fire, and his whole body is on fire,” says McKim’s mom.

The Bunsen Burner ignited a bottle of rubbing alcohol that was part of the experiment. She grabbed the closest thing she could find and started beating him with pillows.

“It would not go out; the fire would not go out. I tried to get him down on the floor to get him to roll, and it would not go out,” says the mother. “So, I just screamed out to God to give me some direction on what to do. We were right next to the kitchen, so I just put him on the floor next to the sink and I got the sprayer from the sink, and I just started spraying him down. Barrett, at this point, was just asking me, ‘Am I going to die? Am I going to die? Mommy tell me the truth, am I going to die?’”

The boy and his mom, who also suffered severe burns to her hands, were life flighted 45 minutes to Augusta, Ga. to the JMS Burn Center.

McKim’s mother said: “He did not have any skin. From his fingertips down to his knees. And some parts were white. Just white.”

Since that day, Barrett McKim has been through five surgeries, for burns covering 50 percent of his body.

McKim’s dad, Kyle McKim, said: “To see your child in that kind of pain; to see just the intense pain on his face, and his very honest questions of, ‘Am I going to die?’ which he was continuing to ask. One of the things I’ll never forget that he asked me multiple times was, ‘Tell me the truth.’”

The truth is, he’s lucky to be alive.

“I had planned that day to go pick up my daughter from her babysitting job. If it had been five minutes different, I wouldn’t have been at home with Barrett,” his mom says.

Just moments before the accident, she called her husband to see if he could swing by and grab her.

“He said ‘Yeah, I’ve got a minute, I can do it and I can bring her home.’ It was of the Lord because if I had not been there, I don’t know what would have happened to him,” says McKim’s mother.

Barrett’s uncle has been sharing his progress on a GoFundMe page and the outpouring of love and support they’ve gotten from around the world has helped them make it through.

“The encouragement and support has been incredible. There are so many blessings, even in the midst of this, that we realize the Lord protected,” says his dad.

One supportive stranger said: “When I was 11, I was burned. You know, you will survive, and you will make it.”

Day by day, this bright, thoughtful, science-loving, boy fights to get back to the life he loves.

The boy’s mother said: “He has a metal detector that he will take everywhere. We will go to the park, and he will go to the playground to play, and he brings his metal detector. While everyone else is on the swings, he’s metal detecting with his little shovel. He’s very cautious. He’s a thinker.”

Barrett still has a long road ahead of him. He has physical therapy every day and skin graft surgery coming up.

“He was wearing his goggles during this experiment, which we think saved his eyes,” his mom says.

Even though this chapter will be a marathon, not a sprint, doctors are pleased with his progress so far, and his parents are counting their proximity to Augusta as one of their blessings.

“We were so blessed to have been a 45-minute flight from here. We just feel the Lord met us multiple times in this ordeal,” says McKim’s dad.

Copyright 2022 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.