Originally created 04/18/99

Mother's time spent caring for injured child



Jeannie South spends her days at her daughter's bedside.

Waiting for an open eye, a subtle nod of her head, Ms. South keeps a vigil for the simple signals that 12-year-old DeeAnn Wright uses to communicate, since being horribly burned in a fire in their North Augusta mobile home 14 months ago.

"She's a miracle," said Ms. South, who quit work to stay with DeeAnn after the blaze, in which her 17-year-old sister, Karen, was killed. "She just comes through one thing right after another, bless her heart."

Ms. South was ready to take DeeAnn home from Columbia Augusta Medical Center in March, but those plans were put on hold when her daughter suffered a second heart attack.

"Hopefully within the next few weeks we'll have her back off the ventilator again," Ms. South said. "We have our own way of communicating. As she gathers her strength back again I'm sure she will be able to nod her head `yes' and `no' again."

Firefighters from the Meriwether Volunteer Fire Department were called to the family's burning mobile home on Springhaven Drive just after midnight on Feb. 4, 1998.

Even before firefighters arrived, neighbors found DeeAnn unconscious just inside the trailer's front door on the floor, near a burning love seat. She was burned over 96 percent of her body.

Karen was found in the bathroom, dead from inhaling poisonous smoke.

Rushed to the Burn Center at Columbia Augusta, doctors worked frantically to save DeeAnn's life, covering her seared body with the skin of a cadaver.

Since then, the fifth grade pupil at Meriwether Middle School has been under constant medical care here in Augusta and in the pediatric burn unit at the Shriner's Hospital in Galveston, Tx.

Ms. South has been learning how to care for her daughter's special needs when they eventually return home, but that day may be several weeks away.

Until then, Ms. South watches patiently.

"She's going to have a good life," she said. "I've got special plans for that baby, she's touched so many hearts."

S.B. Crawford can be reached at (706) 823-3217 or scraw@augustachronicle.com.