Korryn Bachner was a typical teenager living in a Chicago suburb when a terrible accident left her with third-degree burns over much of her body. After several days in the ICU, she was released home, but still needed ample recovery time before she could return to normal life. Nonetheless, Korryn’s friends made sure she was still able to enjoy one of the most important dances of a teenager’s life.
At the time of the incident, Korryn was a well-liked sophomore attending Glenbard East High School in Illinois. She was a cheerleader for the high school football team and enjoyed spending time with her friends. Life seemed to be going fine for the 15-year-old, until one night changed everything.
The tragedy struck when Korryn was gathered around a backyard fire pit with about a dozen of her friends in the Glendale Heights neighborhood. A sudden flare-up caused flames to shoot out of the bonfire and onto the teenagers. It was shortly after 10:00 p.m. when neighbors reported hearing several loud pops and then a deafening boom. Emergency workers arrived on the scene shortly afterwards.
The accident was apparently caused by a mishandled can of oil. “One of the boys attempted to put some gas on the fire to make it bigger,” Korryn’s mother, Ellen Bachner, told People magazine. “It exploded and got all over the kids, and they were on fire.”
Korryn sustained second- and third-degree burns on the top half of her body – mostly on her hands, face, and neck. She was rushed to the burn unit at Loyola University Medical Center, where her understandably distressed mother soon arrived and learned how badly her daughter had been injured.
“I didn’t understand the severity of her burns until I saw her in the trauma center,” said Ellen. “It’s every mom’s worst nightmare. You don’t want to see your kids hurt.” Unfortunately, Ellen wasn’t the only mother whose child sustained major injuries that night when flames went rocketing violently up into the air.
It’s thought that somewhere in the region of ten children were hurt in the explosion, with around four sustaining serious injuries. One of the teenager’s parents told WGN TV that “one boy was burned over much of his body, two girls will need facial reconstruction surgery and one is in a coma with a breathing tube.”
The most gravely injured victim in the explosion was Korryn’s good friend Autumn Hamilton, who remains hospitalized. GoFundMe pages have been set up for Korryn, Autumn and some of the other victims to raise money for medical bills. The high school and surrounding community have been trying to support the students as well.
Korryn spent 13 days in hospital – several of them in the ICU – before being allowed to go home. And although Korryn had survived, she nonetheless had a long journey ahead of her. With the help of her parents, she would have to continue the extensive and daunting process of helping her injuries to heal.
For instance, the teenager’s face was bandaged over and so the dressings would have to be replaced regularly. And just one day after her release from the hospital, Korryn was supposed to be attending the Glenbard East High School Prom.
Jonathan Ayala, a pal of Korryn’s and a senior at her school, had already asked her to go to the prom. She’d accepted, but now for obvious reasons it seemed that she wouldn’t be able to go after all.
However, Korryn’s friends were determined to ensure that their injured pal didn’t miss out on the special night. So, in a surprise effort orchestrated by a bunch of her classmates, the prom came to Korryn instead. On the night of the prom, her friends brought the party to the Bachner household by decorating the basement to create a mini-prom experience.
And Ayala had a major role in planning the operation. “He told me in the hospital that he was determined to bring prom to her, even if it was in the hospital,” Korryn’s mother explained. “Then when we came home, he asked if he could decorate the basement.”
Ayala’s efforts were well received, especially as Korryn had no idea what her pals had planned for her. The teenager just thought that some friends were stopping by before the dance to say hello and take pictures, but she got far more than she bargained for. And Korryn was surprised and touched to find her basement decorated with lights.
“There were definitely some tears,” Ellen recalled. “But they were happy tears.” Korryn’s mother also explained that Ayala sacrificed his own senior prom night to spend time with the recovering Korryn instead. “She has the opportunity to still attend two more, but I don’t know that another prom will ever be as special as this one was,” Ellen said.
The teenagers took photos in their suits and dresses, with Korryn, bandaged-faced, and danced to a few songs in the basement turned dancehall. Korryn had to hide her tears as she laid her head on Ayala’s shoulder. “She was just happy,” Ellen recalled. “It made my heart happy.”
Korryn’s spirits were boosted by the kind actions of her pals. “Having all my friends’ support, it helps a lot. It takes my mind off things,” she told ABC 7 News. And she will need the continued support of those pals as her wounds heal. While Korryn is expected to fully recover, doctors say it will take months, and that the process can’t be rushed.
Korryn attends speech therapy twice a week, according to an update on the GoFundMe page for her medical treatment. The sessions are teaching her how to massage the skin around her mouth as it continues to heal. Thankfully, the bandages have been removed from Korryn’s hands, and she’s making progress slowly but surely.
And Korryn is lucky to be further along in her recovery than some of the other burn victims. Autumn Hamilton sustained third-degree burns over most of her body and remains in critical care, although she too is making remarkable strides. Perhaps most importantly, she has been taken off of her ventilator and is now breathing on her own.
Autumn’s sedative doses have also been lowered, allowing her to actively participate in her physical therapy. She is alert and aware for longer periods of time now, can nod yes and no to questions and is determined to work hard to get better. The process is slow, but thankfully both Autumn and Korryn have a great group of friends to support them as they recover.