July 21, 2016 -- With a beaming Frances Breen seated atop a vintage 1930s yellow fire engine leading the way, hundreds took part in a joyous procession up Sea Cliff Avenue from Lincoln Plaza to Clifton Park this past Sunday morning in the first ever “Kids Parade.” Sponsored by the Sea Cliff - Glen Head Lion’s Club, in what is anticipated to become an annual event, this year’s march was held in honor of Frances, a seven year-old Sea Cliff resident whose miraculous recovery from life threatening burns suffered in an accident this past March was truly something to celebrate.
While spending this past Easter with her family and about 40 guests at her home overlooking Clifton Park, a gust of wind blew flames from a fire pit towards Frances igniting her dress and engulfing her in fire.
Thankfully, quick action by family, friends, first responders and doctors, as well as Frances’ fierce determination, saved her life.
“It was divine intervention,” explained Molly Deegan Breen, Frances’ mother, to Northwordnews. “Everyone knew what to do. Nobody skipped a beat.”
Molly’s sister, Mary Deegan Haff, a pediatric emergency room doctor at Winthrop University Hospital, was the first to encounter Frances as she ran into the foyer of the home. Mary immediately wrapped her in a nearby rug to smother the flames.
Javier Mojica, who had been hired through Grace's Marketplace in Greenvale to help with the party, doused Frances with water which helped to protect her chest and face from injury.
By the time Molly got to Frances, she said, 911 had already been called and help was on the way.
Despite it being a holiday, first responders from the Sea Cliff Fire Department were quickly on the scene, and Cathy Walsh, a Nassau County Police Department paramedic, recognizing the severity of Frances’ burns radioed for a helicopter that airlifted the Sea Cliff School first grader from Clifton Park to the Nassau University Medical Center.
Incredibly, only about 16 minutes passed from the moment of the accident to the landing at the East Meadow hospital’s helipad.
At NUMC, Dr. Louis Riina and Dr. Roger Simpson performed life-saving surgery and reconstructive skin grafts, and for the next 82 days her recovery was overseen there by Pediatric Intensive Care Unit Director Dr. Peter Ciminera. And then in early June, Frances was transferred to St. Mary’s Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital in Bayside, where she spent the next 25 days continuing her treatment and recovery.
Weeks following the accident, after Frances had made important progress in her recovery and it was clear that she was going to survive her injuries, Dr. Ciminera told Molly and her husband, John Breen, that the mortality rate for children with the burns that Frances suffered is about 60%.
“My knees just buckled when I heard that,” Molly said.
It was not only the support of others, but also Frances’ determination and strength of character that enabled her to survive and recover from her injuries, her mother explained.
“The fact that she is where she is now is testament to her courage and positive attitude. She is an extraordinary person. She is a walking miracle.”
“She did not cry or complain once during this time,” Molly said, despite having to experience pain that most people could not even imagine, as she endured twice daily changings of the dressings on the burns that covered 45% of her body.
During this process, she continued, “she would clench her teeth and grab the rails of her bed.”
“At some points she would say, ‘everybody get your hands off me - I need to channel positive energy.’” And then after a moment - “‘Okay - you guys can continue.’”
Earlier this month, Frances finally returned home.
And this past weekend - “a weekend of Thanksgiving,” explained Molly, began with a mass at the Breen home on Saturday, attended by 85 close family and friends and those who had done so much to help and support Frances and her family on Easter Sunday and during the three and a half months that followed.
And this past Sunday, of course, was the parade and party at Clifton Park that featured a performance by Frances’ cousin and Middle School music teacher Bryce Larsen as well as a visit from Skip Dommin of Volunteers for Wildlife, the Bailey Arboretum-based wildlife hospital, who brought with him rescued animals and a gift for Frances. The Sea Cliff-Glen Head Lions Club, sponsors of the parade and party, generously donated hot dogs, popcorn, cotton candy, and ice cream.
As Frances and the parade goers arrived at the park, they were greeted by de facto Village emcee John Canning, who spoke briefly commenting on Frances' miraculous recovery.
“Your pluck, spirit, and determination have inspired all of us,” he said. “You have inspired the young and old alike."
Mayor Bruce Kennedy added a few moments later, “we know how much we were pulling for this young lady. She is an inspiration.”
Then Frances took the microphone and, unfazed speaking before a crowd of hundreds, in a strong voice said simply, “thank you all for coming.”
No, Frances - thank you for coming.
Story by Northwordnews
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