VERNDALE, Minn. — Verndale 22-month-old Alaina Schultz underwent a four-hour surgery Wednesday, April 14, to remove the burned skin from her arms.
It follows two similar procedures, with at least two more surgeries planned.
Alaina has severe burns from her head down past her knees, about 79% of her body.
"She loved giving kisses," said Alaina's grandmother Karen Schultz.
Schultz says doctors have told her it may be several months before Alaina can do that again.
"It's my job as a parent, as a homeowner, to keep people safe in my home. To know that this happened in the room where my granddaughter was, it breaks my heart," said Schultz with tears in her eyes.
Last Wednesday, minutes after the little girl was put to bed, Karen Schultz and her 21-year-old daughter, Liberty, Alaina's mother, heard the smoke alarms going off upstairs and rushed up to her room and saw flames up to the ceiling, feet from her granddaughter's crib.
"Knowing there is somebody on the other side trapped in the fire and you can't get to them ... " said Schultz.
It took two attempts by firefighters to rescue little Alaina through her bedroom window.
"It's more than going in and taking a child out and saving a life, they are risking their own lives," said Schultz, referring to the firefighters.
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Miraculously, little Alaina was still breathing, but she had life-threatening burns. Doctors at Hennepin County Medical Center were not sure if they could save her.
"It's to the bones — there's no skin left, there's no flesh left. It's to the bones," said Schultz.
Alaina's mother was also rushed to a Twin Cities hospital for treatment of burns and smoke inhalation. After several days in the ICU, she was released into general care this week.
Liberty got her first glance at her baby girl, who is all wrapped up.
They will be separated for weeks, if not months, as Alaina continues her delicate healing process. Karen Schultz says her only granddaughter will be on a ventilator for months, and will be at the burn center for close to a year.
It will be a time of multiple surgeries and baby steps to come.
"Holding on to hope, and it's going to be a big day when I can see her again and hold her and tell her how much I love her," said Schultz.
Karen Schultz also wanted to point out another reason Alaina is still alive was by calling 911 right away. She says firefighters told her those precious seconds meant firefighters were able to get the child from her crib before the flames made it even closer.
"Even if you just see smoke, if there is somebody in the home, call 911. I can't stress that enough — that is the first thing you do," said Schultz.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.