Matt Schickling, the Wire
Some things you just can’t see coming.
Five years ago, Todd Kupper was making his wife Lisa her favorite meal, eggplant parm, in their Huntingdon Valley home for their ninth wedding anniversary. Their daughter, Emma, likes to help around the kitchen. As they were finishing up, Emma, then 4 years old, stepped up on her stool to wash her hands in the sink at the island in the middle of the kitchen.
It could have been a normal day. Emma could have stepped off the stool and sat down to dinner with her family and it could have been a memory they all shared and remembered every year. But Emma stumbled.
She knocked over a skillet just used to cook the meal and it fell toward her.
“She was pretty much covered from the waist down in hot oil,” Lisa Kupper said, recalling the event during a May 31 interview, exactly five years ago to the day.
The oil burned her badly. The majority landed on the top of her foot and she suffered a deep-tissue burn, down to the bone.
“From that point on, just going through her recovery and surgery, what we went through as a family, it was very, very traumatic for her and painful for her,” Kupper added.
After several plastic surgeries, physical therapy and a lot of patience, the burn didn’t limit her mobility and other than a fairly significant scar on her foot, you would never know this happened to her.
“She’s a pretty tough kid,” Kupper said about her daughter, who is now 9 years old.
But the time between then and now wasn’t easy. The Kuppers had to learn how to treat the wound, which involved bandaging and rebandaging, managing Emma’s pain and dealing with the psychological aftermath for both Emma, the burned, and themselves, parents feeling guilty that it even happened.
“I think that parents feel that guilt like, ‘I should have been able to prevent it,’ that somehow they failed as a parent,” Kupper said. “It happens in such a split second. There was nothing [Todd] could have done to stop it while it was in motion.”
From their own experience, the Kuppers realized that this is something many parents and their children face and there’s not much in the way of support or resources to help them.
Even changing a bandage requires some help. Emma would scream and cry, the bandage would stick to her wound and her parents would be at a loss to handle the situation.
The more they realized this, the more they wanted to help others.
The Kuppers approached St. Christopher’s Foundation for Children to seek ways to assist pediatric burn victims and their families. They started their own nonprofit organization called the Heal The Burn Foundation to assist in any way they can.
“Neither one of us had any background in nonprofit organizations. We went with it and did the best we could,” Kupper said.
They donated funds to support a Child Life Fellowship position at the hospital. This position would be an aid to parents during dressing changes and conduct distractive therapy designed to take focus away from the wound during painful periods.
If children are burned in a visible area, there is a reintegration program where they send someone to a child’s school to discuss the burn beforehand so instead of dealing with constant questions and staring, he or she can comfortably ease back into day-to-day life.
They also made several YouTube videos to share their story and work closely with community outreach initiatives, like the Philadelphia Fire Department’s fire burn and prevention program.
This year, they’ll be hosting an event at Lower Moreland High School on April 18 called Seeing is Believing. The magic and comedy show will raise funds for the Heal The Burn Foundation. It’s the fifth year they’ve hosted the event, but the first year in Lower Moreland. In years past, it took place at the Mitchell Performing Arts Center on the Bryn Athyn College Campus.
“The response that comes back is so huge,” Kupper said. “We just hope that it does make a difference.”
The Seeing Is Believing event will take place at Lower Moreland High School, 55 Red Lion Road in Lower Moreland, at 7 p.m. For more information, call 215–947–7384 or visit www.healingtheburn.org.