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Democrat Photo by Dan Hust

AN ENERGETIC IDA Rose Oestrich, right, amuses her mom, Rosanne, and brother Merlin on the front lawn of the Oestrichs’ home in Smallwood.

Community Rallies 'Round Burned Girl

By Dan Hust
SMALLWOOD — November 17, 2006 — One crockpot of tomato sauce plus one little girl equaled disaster in a Smallwood home last month.
On October 21, Rosanne Oestrich was preparing a batch of tomato sauce for a church dinner while her 3-year-old daughter, Ida, helped her empty the dishwasher on which the crockpot sat.
The sauce was nearly done, having simmered for most of the day – and then it happened.
A wayward move by Ida sent the crockpot and its boiling hot contents down on her, instantly searing Ida’s neck, arms and legs.
“She started screaming hysterically,” recalled Rosanne. “I ripped Ida’s clothes off and dipped her in ice-cold water. Then I wrapped her in a blanket and took her outside.”
Three of Rosanne’s five other children followed Mom outside. Hanna, 4, Irvin, 2 and Merlin, just 5 months old, didn’t really grasp what was going on, but they were just as frightened.
There on the front lawn of Rosanne and Lawrence Oestrich’s home, Rosanne was horrified to see Ida’s skin literally peeling away.
Twenty percent of her small body had been horribly burned.
At that moment, a relative was pulling in the driveway, mercifully allowing Rosanne to leave her other children and rush Ida to Catskill Regional Medical Center in Harris.
Doctors took a look at Ida’s serious wounds and called an ambulance to take her to Westchester Medical Center’s Burn Unit in Valhalla.
There, “they waited three days to see what the burns would manifest into,” said Rosanne.
The second-degree burns turned into third-degree, the worst kind, and Ida was taken into the operating room for skin grafting on October 26.
She almost didn’t make it.
“She went into cardiac arrest, so they stopped,” recalled Rosanne. “But they caught it in time.”
Once well enough to handle a second round of surgery, Ida had skin taken off her legs and buttocks to replace what had been lost on her arms, shoulders, back and legs – all finished on Halloween, in a macabre twist.
Due to the amount of blood vessels in the skin and the resultant bleeding, Ida eventually needed three pints of blood.
But she wasn’t out of the woods yet. Doctors inserted feeding tubes to maintain a high-protein diet, and blood was continually drawn to monitor the effects of the burns and the blood transfusions.
By November 6, “I got tired of seeing them poke her,” said Rosanne, and she and her husband took Ida home.
Being the mother of six and growing up in a family of eight, Rosanne was confident she could handle the bandage-changing duties, with periodic checkups at the doctor’s office.
Now, nearly a month after that terrible day, Ida Rose Oestrich is the picture of happy childhood, running around her home and playing with her brothers and sisters like nothing ever happened.
“She doesn’t remember much of it,” observed Rosanne as Ida picked out stickers in the kitchen, mere feet from the scene of her trauma. “She’s always been a good-tempered girl.”
But the scars remain – indeed, the waffle patterns on her skin grafts may be hidden under sleeves and pants, but they’ll stay there for the rest of her life.
Rosanne said Ida may one day choose to have cosmetic surgery for some of the worst scars, but that decision is long off. For now, her body simply needs to heal.
“She’s stiff and very unsturdy,” remarked Rosanne, pointing out that Ida walks with difficulty due to her wounds (likely a temporary condition, she added). “And she needs naps every day to recover.”
How’s Mom doing?
“I spent three days crying at the hospital,” she recalled, “with mothers who went through the same thing.”
Rosanne also had a chance to see how bad it could have been, watching adults disfigured by even more severe burns make their way through Westchester’s hallways.
“But life goes on,” she continued. “You have to go on.”
Her family, of course, has been a huge help in that regard – one of her sisters, seven months pregnant, even stayed with her children while Mom and Dad tended to Ida in the hospital.
But in such situations, help comes from many corners, and Rosanne was showered with meals, money and more from neighbors and fellow Town of Bethel residents.
The Smallwood-Mongaup Valley Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary and Bethel Town Clerk Rita Sheehan coordinated a fund drive to help pay medical bills for the family.
Leslie Schwamberger and her coworkers at the Monticello branch of the First National Bank of Jeffersonville set up a fund for Ida and put out a box for donations.
And Easter Seals Project Excel helped with childcare, donated $700 and gave the Oestrichs two cellphones so while at the hospital, Rosanne could communicate with her husband, who was home taking care of the children, including school-aged Lottie, 9, and Ulysses, 8.
“The Easter Seals program was fabulous,” Rosanne gratefully remarked. “And we’ll be going to the Jeff Bank in Monticello with different flavored coffees and quiche [to say thanks]!
“Everyone’s been so gracious and caring,” she continued. “I knew I lived in a community, but I didn’t know it was a community of caring and concerned people.”
In the meantime, the Oestrichs are awaiting a report from their health insurer on what is and isn’t covered – a particular concern, considering Rosanne is a homemaker and Lawrence is a self-employed licensed surveyor.
But even when those answers come in, questions will remain about Ida’s future.
“Now we really save,” said Rosanne. “We’re going to set up a medical fund for her.”
Ida, of course, is not one to worry. All she wanted to do Tuesday was wave her new ghost sticker in people’s faces and gleefully shout, “Boo!” – followed by a slew of giggles.
“We’re doing good,” commented Rosanne, smiling at the antics of her daughter.
“Though we haven’t had any tomato sauce yet.”
To donate money to the Oestrich family, send checks to the Smallwood-Mongaup Valley Fire Department at POB 423, Smallwood, NY 12778, or send checks to or drop cash off for the Ida Rose Oestrich Benefit Fund at any branch of the First National Bank of Jeffersonville.
To donate other items or for more information, contact Rita Sheehan at 583-4350, ext. 11.

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