MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A challenge shared on the TikTok social media platform landed 12-year-old Nick Howell in the hospital with second- and third-degree burns to nearly half of his body.
To commemorate burn awareness week, he’s hoping his story serves as a cautionary tale to other kids.
“It was TikTok. I [saw] a challenge I wanted to follow. It was rubbing alcohol and a lighter,” Howell explained. “I poured rubbing alcohol on the floor and lit it. It worked and then I put it out, and then the bottle had caught on fire. It exploded. And I started running.”
Howell, only 11 at the time, was at his grandmother’s home in Miami. He was injured so badly that crews airlifted him to Kendall Regional Medical Center, where he remained for nearly two months in their burn unit.
“It’s difficult when you see your son screaming, ‘Mommy, mommy, mommy, on fire,’” his mother Estela Howard said. “You don’t know what to do.”
Howell underwent numerous surgeries to replace damaged skin and remove scaring.
“Nick came in in a pretty bad situation,” said Dr. Haaris Mir, the burn center director at Kendall Regional. “He had third-degree burns on 35-40% of his body.”
Howell was honored with a medal Tuesday, more than a year after his release from the hospital.
“He looks fantastic,” Mir said. “He’s gone through several reconstructions to soften up the scars. What we did is we did a lot of laser on him, and then we did small plastic surgery procedures to release contracture as well.”
While Howell will need to come in for routine laser treatments, doctors say he is now healthy. He hopes to use his experience to mentor other children who may be in similar situations.
“I wanna help kids that are going through the same thing that I went through,” Howell said. “And since I already did it, I want to help them get through it too.”
Said his mother: “He’s one of the bravest kids I know. And I don’t say that because he’s my child. But he’s one of the bravest kids I know.”