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‘Baby Ella’ Keeps Making Great Steps to Recovery

If the city of Quincy, Illinois, ever had an adopted child, chances are very good her name would be Ella Cain.

Ask most anyone from Quincy about “Baby Ella” and their faces light up. Words like “miracle” and “courage” are usually brought into the conversation. Smiles abound.

Little Ella Cain, now age 2 ½, who was critically burned in an electrical fire at 303 Ohio Street on Jan. 3, 2012, is making remarkable progress on her long journey to recovery. The fire had started in Ella’s second story bedroom, just a few feet from her crib, when an overheated extension cord plugged into a space heater ignited.

For Ella’s parents, Sarah Ginster and Elvis Cain, the day of the fire “is a blur of tears and fear,” Ginster said. Ella’s prognosis the first few days after the fire was not good. “She couldn’t maintain a steady blood pressure,” Ginster said. “Her body temperature was all over the place.” After being rescued by Quincy firefighters Eric Becks and Justin Twaddle, Ella was rushed first to Blessing Hospital in Quincy, then flown to St. John’s Women and Children’s Hospital in Springfield, Illinois, where she was treated for weeks.

Ella about one month after the fire with her father, Elvis Cain

Ella was just 15 months old when the fire broke out. Now, nearly 16 months later, she has spent literally more than half of her life working hard to recover. She’s endured countless hours of occupational and physical therapy. She has overcome both of her legs being contracted and “stuck” at a 90 degree angle. Last July she had surgery to release her arm and legs. “When she started with therapy after the surgery she could barely lift her arm, and when she did it was painful,” Ginster explained. “Now she can lift it completely over her head!” Physical therapists work with her legs to ensure the muscles and skin do not become tight and contracted again, to where she would be unable to walk. Ella is now able to straighten both legs and is walking and running. “She’s even learning to jump!” said Ginster.

Through all of the surgeries and therapy sessions, Ella has blossomed into a normal little two-year-old. Potty training is underway, a process which is proving difficult because Ella wears a compression suit 23 hours a day to ensure her scarring stays as flat as possible. The suit will have to be worn for at least another two years, but, in typical Ella fashion, “she is doing amazing with it,” Ginster said.

There are long days ahead. The summer months will be difficult dealing with the heat while wearing the suit. Ella will not grow any hair on the back of her head until her scalp is surgically stretched from the front to the back – a surgical decision Ella will make on her own, when she’s older.

Quincy is a town full of pride. And the community is especially proud – even protective — of Ella. “Elvis and I feel very lucky to be a part of a community that helps shelter us,” Ginster said, adding that when they run into people while out running errands people know who Ella is and never ask hurtful questions. “We rarely get stares or nasty comments. We have noticed that the children of Quincy are among the most protective of her. We constantly see older siblings correcting younger siblings for staring at her.

“It is amazing. The parents in this town are really teaching their kids amazing compassion!”

Besides her parents, Ella gets help from her siblings as well. Brother Grady Ginster and step-sisters Katie, Hannah and Abby Cain all help with therapy, lotion and rubbing her scars when they get sore. Grady, who heroically tried to save Ella, even Skyped with Ella while she was in the hospital in Springfield to boost her spirits.

Dr. Gurpreet Mander, Pediatric Critical Care Physician, has been in charge of Ella’s recovery and Dr. Ruben Bueno, has been the surgeon for all of Ella’s surgeries. “The first thing Dr. Mander told us was, ‘if you pray … I would pray,’” Ginster said.

It looks like it worked. “Ella is doing amazing!” said Ginster.

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