Brooke Dawson, 3, of Viola had skin graft surgery April 11 after being severely burned on her hands, ears and shoulder in a truck fire three days earlier. A benefit auction is being held April 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the Assembly of God Church on Highway 62 in Viola.
Brooke's mother, Samantha Dawson, stopped at Sweet Repeats, a consignment shop in West Plains, to collect money, said store owner, Kristina Breen. Breen said Samantha left her daughter in the truck because she had strep throat and was not feeling well. Dawson stayed at the door of the store so she could see the passenger's side of the truck where Brooke was sleeping, Breen said.
During rounds a postal carrier, Candace Nash, came into the store and alerted customers that a truck was on fire in the parking lot. Dawson and Breen didn't notice the smoke because it was coming from the driver's side and the vehicle was parked so the passenger's side of the vehicle would be in plain view.
Breen said Dawson screamed, "My baby is inside," and ran to the smoke-filled 1997 Dodge pickup to save her child from the blaze. At first she could not see the child because of the smoke. Dawson was able to get Brooke out of the car seat while Breen called 911. After getting the child out of the vehicle Dawson ran to the driver's side and turned the ignition off, and within seconds the truck was fully engulfed in flames.
Breen said, "All you could see was Brooke's eyes," because her face was totally black from the soot. Brooke was wearing long sleeves and pants which probably kept her from getting burned in those areas. "It broke my heart to see Brooke," Breen said.
Howell Ambulance Service responded to the scene and transported the child to West Plains. Brooke was transferred by helicopter to St. John's Regional Health Center in Springfield, Mo.
Brooke was placed on a ventilator and listed in critical condition while she slept for 72 hours, Breen said. After she awoke the first person she saw was her mother, and she gave her a big hug, Breen said. Throughout the whole ordeal Breen said she never heard Brooke cry. "That little girl is so brave," Breen added.
A couple of days later her condition improved so the ventilator was removed, her pain medication was reduced and she was moved to a regular room over the weekend, Breen said.
She will probably have to undergo physical therapy to her hands but doctors are optimistic. The child will probably be able to go home in about two weeks, Breen said. The Dawsons are not only customers at Breen's store but they are neighbors as well. Breen credits Nash and Dawson for saving the child's life.
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined but firemen believe it was electrical, Breen said. "Every parent has left a child in a car," Breen said. She added she couldn't believe what could happen in two minutes time.
Brooke's father, Bobby, started a new job as a truck driver so the medical coverage had not yet taken effect. But Brooke is covered under ArKids Medicaid insurance. Dawson is a nursing student who lost all of her school notes and books in the fire. She was expected to graduate this spring but her graduation may be postponed.
Dawson also lost her purse in the fire and other important documents.
Several businesses in West Plains, Viola and Salem have given donations for medical expenses. Breen said anyone wanting to make a donation for the auction can contact her at 870-458-3190 or at Sweet Repeats, located at 917 W. Broadway St., West Plains, Mo., 65775, 417-255-2447 or contact Denise Clifton at 870-458-3166.