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Mom tells of rescuing 7-year-old son from fire. ‘Me going into the fire was my mama bear response. I didn’t want him hurt at all.’

Melissa Compean broke a window to get to her son Brayden Findlay, who suffered third-degree burns on his arms and hands.

Brayden Findlay in his hospital bed alongside his mother Melissa Compean and Dr. Joshua Carson.
Loyola Medicine

Melissa Compean’s lungs burned with each breath and thick smoke clouded her vision, but she knew her 7-year-old son was somewhere in the room.

She grabbed a blanket and put it over her face, reaching out until she finally felt her son’s arm. Brayden screamed out in pain, but Compean was relieved to know he was alive.

“I felt his arm and it was wet from being burned, so I was like, oh no, he’s hurt,” she said in a video released Monday by Loyola Medical Center, which treated Brayden for severe burns on his arms and hands.

Brayden Findlay
Loyola Medicine

Compean said she was able to get her son to stand and guided him toward the window, which she had broken to get into the burning house. Her stepfather was waiting at the window for them.

“I’m terrified of fire, so me going into the fire was my mama bear response. I didn’t want him hurt at all,” Compean said. “I was trying to save him. Thank God, I faced my own fear.”

The boy’s grandmother, 60-year-old Susan Collopy, died in the fire that broke out Nov. 29 in the 5700 block of West 64th Street. Brayden suffered a life-threatening inhalation injuries and third-degree burns to his arms and hands.

Dr. Joshua Carson, regional director of Loyola’s burn center, said his team administered specialized aerosol treatments to reduce the swelling in Brayden’s airway. Later, they were able to safely insert a tube into his trachea for surgery.

One person died and a child was among three others injured in a fire Nov. 29, 2021, on the Southwest Side.
One person died and a child was among three others injured in a fire Nov. 29, 2021, on the Southwest Side.
Chicago Fire Media

The boy was on a ventilator for several days but is back to breathing on his own.

Brayden’s burns were treated with an special technique that focuses on the “regenerative properties” of a patient’s skin, Carson said. Unlike traditional skin grafts, the new technique requires a much smaller section of skin.

“You can mix it into a spray and you spray that skin on top of just little bitty pieces of graft,” Carson said. “So rather than have a big slab of his skin scarring up his arms, he’s got little lines of skin graft. And then he’s got this spray so that it can heal more like natural skin.”

Brayden will now head to a rehabilitation center, where he will work with therapists to rebuild muscles in his arms and hands. Carson said the technique they used should make it much easier for his hands to get back to where they were.

“For a kid like him at his age who needs to grow with his hands and use them, that's I think a huge advantage,” the doctor said. “He’s healed really well, he won’t need anymore surgery.”