West Palm Beach Child Receives Lifesaving Treatment at the Miami Burn Center

On March 5, 2022, Kella Simon was folding laundry in her bedroom, which was located in a guesthouse  right outside of her West Palm Beach home,  when she began to smell smoke coming from the main house.

“I was trying to put away some clothes when one of my kids came to ask me for a snack,” Simon said. “I suddenly began smelling smoke, but the door to my room would not open.  It had gotten jammed.”

In a desperate attempt to get out of the room, Simon managed to break her bedroom door and rush to the burning house.

“All I remember is seeing my mother carrying my baby in her arms,” Simon said. “I kept screaming and asking what happened.”

Fire crews arrived to the house, and rushed then 11-month old Johnny T. Rejulus to a nearby hospital. Johnny had suffered smoke inhalation and burns to 20 percent of his body.

He was intubated, and immediately airlifted to the Miami Burn Center, located at Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial.

“When Johnny arrived, he was suffering from deep second- and third-degree burns to his scalp, face, both arms, knee, and upper torso,” said Louis Pizano, MD, the burn center’s medical director. “He had to undergo an emergency escharotomy to his right arm to help restore circulation and allow adequate ventilation due to the severe damage to his skin.”

Johnny was then placed in a medically induced coma while he continued to heal from his burns. Three weeks after his tragic injuries, he celebrated his first birthday in the burn unit.

“It was a bittersweet moment because he was still intubated,” Dr. Pizano said.  “The burn unit nursing team decorated his room with balloons to celebrate his special day, and also to remind his mother that we would do everything in our power to allow him to have birthdays in the future.”

Due to the severe burns, Johnny had his right hand and middle finger on his left hand amputated, and his right ear removed. He also underwent reconstructive surgery to his face and scalp. Johnny was discharged two months after his devastating injuries.

Since then,  he has been undergoing physical and occupational therapy at Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center for The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at UHealth/Jackson Memorial.

“When he first started therapy, we focused on providing range of motion to the areas that were burned to increase flexibility on his joints,” said Maria Arango, occupational therapist at Lynn Rehabilitation Center. “He’s now learned to run and jump, as well as use his hands to play with toys and feed himself.”

In total, Johnny has undergone nine skin graft surgeries, and is expected to undergo more procedures, including laser treatments to help remodel the scar tissue and increase mobility and appearance of his scars.

“I wouldn’t want my child anywhere else but Jackson,” Simon said. “All his doctors, nurses, and therapists are wonderful.  I’m so grateful for their patience and kindness.”