Minnesota mom gives birth in burn unit after surviving fire

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More than a decade after surviving a house fire and giving birth while in the burn unit, a Plymouth woman is sharing her story.

On Oct. 5, 2003, Syeda Fatima and her two young daughters were severely burned after a cooking accident in their Shoreview apartment.

“My mom was cooking and she forgot oil on the stove and the oil got overheated and caught fire,” Fatima recalls. “She brought the pot outside and threw it on the grass. We were standing way far away, but the wind came right at that time and brought the grease and flames right to us.”

The entire family was rushed to Regions Hospital where doctors faced yet another challenge: Fatima was eight months pregnant.

“My tummy was so badly burned there wasn’t a spot where they could put a stethoscope to see if there was a heartbeat,” she said. “There was absolutely no way to do a C-section because my stomach was so badly burned.”

Doctors induced labor, and the baby became the first known birth in the Region’s burn center.

“That’s the first time I’ve seen it, and I’ve been here 20+ years,” said Mark Johnston who was working as a nurse on the floor that week.

Fatima wouldn’t be able to see or hold her baby for the next 40 days. Even her 18-month-old daughter would grow up with deep emotional scars. 

“Going to all these places that deal with grief, I never thought I needed them because I never remember it happening,” said Safa Ali who is now 16-years-old. “Once I went to these places and they helped me heal, I realized I needed it.”

Thanks to persistence from Region’s Burn Center staff, the family got involved. They attended burn center support groups, camps and picnics.

"Regions Hospital never gave up on me,” said Fatima. “After finally eight years I went to the camp and that was the first time I was able to tell people what happened.”

Fatima hopes by sharing her story it will help others choose to face their trauma head-on and treat the emotional scars as well as the physical.

“When they’re discharged, that care doesn’t stop,” said Johnston.