Ten-year-old Kayden Culp of central Texas headed out to play with some fellow children on Sunday afternoon. It was only a short time later that his family learned he would not be coming home that night. That’s because, according to Kayden’s mother, Tristyn Hatchett, one or more of Kayden’s peers allegedly doused the young boy with gasoline and set him on fire in the abandoned field where they played.
Hatchett and Alike Richardson, Kayden’s aunt, told the San Antonio Express-News that Kayden, who has a hearing impairment and speaks with a lisp, was often bullied and beat up by the same peers, yet he continued to play with them. It was one of those peers who was responsible for his injuries, Kayden told his mother in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. That was the last time Hatchett spoke to her son.
Kayden remains in a medically induced coma at the hospital where, according to a post Hatchett published on Facebook Thursday morning, Kayden seems to be improving:
Kayden is doing a little better today . They have taken him off the epinephrine. He was able to stabilize his heart rate and blood pressure on his own all night. Still on feeding and breathing machines. He is going in for his second dressing change soon. We will know more about the severity of his burns and lung damage afterwards. His swelling seems to be reducing now. The last dressing change caused him to plummet. I will update this afternoon.
And we want to thank everyone, everywhere for all of the thoughts, prayers and support. I can’t express how grateful we are. Truly amazing. We need the good to outweigh the evil.
The family has also set up a GoFundMe to help cover what we can only assume will be insurmountable medical expenses.
In the meantime, authorities have arrested one juvenile of the four present at the time of the incident and charged him with First Degree Arson, though Fire Chief Dannie Smith told CBS News that there is not yet sufficient evidence to suggest the boys intended to hurt Kayden.
As the mother of a child with special needs myself, this sort of heinous crime — if the investigation does, in fact, prove it to have been intentional — rocks me to my core. Those of us with children who have disabilities walk an already rocky path, constantly worrying about our children’s well-being and, God forbid, about something tragic happening to them as a result of bullying. That Kayden’s mother’s worst nightmare came true, and infinitely more troubling, that Kayden will now suffer through a painful recovery and lifetime of additional difficulties, is unimaginable.
And it’s personal. Very personal. Not only to parents of children with disabilities, but to all parents who want and work for nothing less than the best for their children. So personal, in fact, that I find myself attempting to channel my own overbearing rage and despair — and believe me, it is WHITE HOT — into healing and loving thoughts for Kayden and his family.
There’s little we can do for Kayden and his family, but all is not hopeless. Perhaps the greatest thing we can do is lift them up in our hearts and hope against hope that this little boy’s medical team is able to expertly assist him in regaining his health and that the authorities are able to get to the bottom of this hellish ordeal in a timely fashion.