Associated Press, Published February 26 2013
North Dakota burn victim has yet to see newborn daughterDICKINSON, N.D. – When Melody Chorne’s husband stormed into the couple’s farmhouse while screaming a combination of the words “emergency room now” last month, she didn’t have time to ask questions.
“It happened so quickly,” Melody said. “When he came into the house saying we had to go, I wasn’t focused on the reason why for the first second or so. Once I saw that he was shirtless and there was skin just peeling off of him, I knew exactly what he meant. My brain just went into frantic mode.”
On Thursday, it will be a month to the day since Brian Chorne suffered severe burns to the midsection of his body. Unable to speak since his injuries, he remained in critical condition at the Western States Burn Center at North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley as of Monday evening.
As for Melody, frantic mode hasn’t ceased at all. It couldn’t – Melody was due to have the couple’s third child when the accident happened. With Brian rushed to WSBC the night of the accident, Melody decided to join her husband – against her doctor’s wishes – shortly thereafter. Though she has yet to meet her father, Kenzie Chorne was born in Colorado on Valentine’s Day.
The couple also has daughters Krissy, 5, Brailynn, 17 months, and four other children from previous relationships.
With traveling back and forth and Kenzie’s birth, Melody has barely been back to the couple’s farm, a few miles north of South Heart.
“It was devastating knowing that Brian couldn’t be there to see Kenzie being born,” Melody said. “I was trying to stay pregnant for as long as I could so he could be there. It’s been difficult – my life is basically shattered at this point in time. We’re going to have to rebuild everything. Somehow, I’ve been able to stay strong and keep my head up.”
WSBC spokesman Gene Haffner said the facility could not release any information about Brian’s injuries – other than to confirm he was in critical condition – though Melody said she’s received indications that he could be out of the burn center as early as next week. Melody said Brian was sedated for significant amounts of time after arriving at WSBC, but is now alert and able to communicate by head or hand gestures.
“He’s doing amazingly well,” Melody said. “They have him on a (tracheostomy), but they’re going to switch him over to a different setup soon. He’s been breathing, for the most part, completely on his own, which is great because his lungs took a pretty bad hit.”
Melody estimates that about 80 percent of the middle part of her husband’s body was burned. She added that a skin graft was done and that Brian’s face was mostly spared from burns.
“Since nobody under the age of 12 is allowed on the burn center floor, he hasn’t seen (Kenzie) yet,” Melody said. “We printed out a picture of her and put it in his room so at least he can see what she looks like. He’s basically ignored the picture when I’ve been there. I think he’s having a really hard time with the fact that he wasn’t there. Brian’s an amazing father, and I know he was upset with the fact that this happened.”
What exactly did happen isn’t entirely clear, since Brian was the only witness to the accident and he hasn’t been able to speak about it. The accident seems to have stemmed from a propane explosion however, because Melody said she knew Brian was using a propane heater while working on a groundwater well at the farm.
Although a benefit Thursday and the account set up for the family will no doubt help, Melody knows it could be a long road back financially. Medical bills aren’t cheap, and Brian, the family’s breadwinner, obviously has been away from his job with STRATA, an engineering and services firm based out of Boise, Idaho.
Pat Eckes, who is helping to run a Facebook page called “Brian Chorne Benefit Fund” and get the word out around town for Thursday’s event, said the response from people has been very positive.
“As long as I have him and I have my family, everything is going to be OK,” Melody said. “As long as he comes home, we can pull our family back together. It doesn’t matter where we live or what we’re doing, we’re going to be OK.”