“Daddy! Sissy’s on fire!”
With those words, Kayleigh Calhoun likely saved her little sister’s life.
Kayleigh, who turned 4 years old Tuesday, and her sister, Alyssa, were playing on a slide when an unthinkable tragedy happened Saturday at their father’s Walton County home. Another child poured gasoline on the slide, sparking a fire, according to investigators.
As 21-month-old Alyssa was engulfed in flames, her sister ran inside the home to alert the children’s father, the girls’ mother told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Alyssa’s father put her in the bathtub to extinguish the flames before driving her to a nearby fire station. And from there, she was flown to Grady Memorial Hospital, where she remained Wednesday night in a medically induced coma after being burned over 60 percent of her body. Alyssa is expected to have her second surgery Thursday.
“If it wouldn’t have been for Kayleigh, she probably wouldn’t be here,” Jennifer Lollis, the girls’ mother, said in the waiting room of the Grady burn unit.
Lollis, of Covington, said her daughters were spending the weekend with their father when she got the phone call about the accident. She immediately went to Grady, where doctors have told her Alyssa is fortunate to have survived.
“My world has completely turned upside down,” Lollis said. “I’m still in shock.”
On Monday, Alyssa endured a four-hour surgery, and many more will follow, Lollis said. Many of Alyssa’s burns are third-degree, but her back is the most severely burned and has doctors most concerned.
Lollis said her youngest daughter likely faces months in the hospital, followed by an extensive recovery period. But one of the hardest parts for Lollis is knowing that the incident could have been avoided.
“Anything can happen, just like that. Children will be children,” Lollis said. “They should never be left unattended, ever. This was a very preventable thing that happened.”
The Walton County Sheriff’s Office is investigating, but so far, no criminal charges have been filed. Sheriff Joe Chapman has called the child’s burns a tragic accident.
On Tuesday, birthday cake and gifts were a distraction for 4-year-old Kayleigh, Lollis said. But before Lollis left to return to Grady late Tuesday, Kayleigh had one message for Alyssa.
“Tell sissy I love her,” Kayleigh said.