Child, burned by transformer, heading for Pa. Boy who lost arm due to start rehabilitation.

June 10, 1991|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Evening Sun Staff

Juanita Johns said the road has been long for her and her son Terrence, who had to have an arm amputated after falling into a 13,000-volt electrical transformer near their home in Annapolis six weeks ago. But she sees a light at the end of the tunnel for her 8-year-old.

"Terrence is progressing very good," Johns said. "He just wants to come home."

Terrence had the opportunity to return home over the weekend, but only for a short visit. He is to leave tomorrow for the Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia where he will undergo up to six weeks of rehabilitation, and be fitted for a prosthetic right arm.

Terrence just spent more than six weeks at the Children's Hospital National Medical Center in Washington. He received severe burns after he fell into an open transformer in attempting to fetch a stick April 23. His accident spurred public housing officials in Annapolis to better secure the transformers.

Last week, his mother was presented with a check for $1,400, collected during a month-long drive by Annapolis residents that was headed by Mount Olive A.M.E. Church and the capital city's Black Political Forum. The money will help pay some of Terrence's medical bills, which now total about $200,000, his mother said. The fund-raising is continuing.

Terrence had to have his right arm amputated near the shoulder and suffered burns around his neck and chest area and on both legs and his left arm as a result of the accident, Johns said.

On April 23, Terrence and a group of young boys were playing in the Robinwood housing project where they live. The boys were tossing a piece of an old broom handle when it landed in an open transformer.

As Terrence tried to retrieve the stick, he apparently struck his head on a live wire, was shocked and fell further into the transformer.

Annapolis police officer Peter Medley and Robinwood resident Joseph Parker used the wooden end of a rake to move the live wires and pull Terrence from the transformer.

"I am forever grateful to those men," Johns said. "I just thank God they were there."

Johns said last week her son was very excited about leaving the hospital. However, Terrence is very apprehensive about facing his friends since losing his arm, she added.

Instead of the big welcome party she initially planned, Johns opted for a gathering of family and close friends and carryout pizza, Terrence's favorite food.

The open transformer into which Terrence fell has been at the center of controversy before. Eleven years ago, another 8-year-old boy fell into it. His injuries were not as severe. That boy and his family received a $30,000 settlement from the Annapolis Housing Authority.

Alan Legum, who represented the boy in that case and who has been retained by Johns as well, said they are continuing to investigate the incident before deciding whether to file suit against the authority.

The transformer was padlocked shut but had been broken into a few days before Terrence's accident. Drug dealers often use transformers to stash drugs, police have said.

"It was an accident," Johns said. "But it could have been prevented."

Johns and other residents of the Robinwood area had gathered a petition asking the Housing Authority to fence-in the transformers. The authority has instead put up locks that require both a key and a special tool designed just for the lock to gain entrance.

If the new lock keeps other children from being injured, Johns said, "it's enough, if it works."

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