Unsung Hero: She thought quickly after her brother was burned by boiling water

Photos courtesy of Robert Garrett

This is Unsung Heroes, a Bryan on Scouting blog series celebrating under-reported acts of Scouting heroism. These are stories that don’t make national headlines — but should. That’s doubly true in this world that can always use more good news. Read the latest story below, and find instructions for sharing your own Unsung Heroes story at the end of the post.

Katherine Garrett heard a loud crash come from the kitchen. Minutes before, she and her younger brother William put a large pot of water on the stove, so they could both enjoy a mac-and-cheese lunch. She had asked him to check if it was boiling and ready for the pasta. When William climbed on a stool to look at the water, it slipped out from under him and his elbow knocked the hot pot over him. Now, he was running up and down the hallway in pain.

The 10-year-old Arrow of Light Scout with Pack 26 in Arden, N.C., remained calm and first-aid knowledge she learned while a Bear came back to her.

“My instincts kicked in and I just did it in the heat of the moment,” she says.

She escorted her 8-year-old brother to the shower, so she could cool down his scalding skin.

“It burned my whole right arm and leg, neck and face,” the Bear Scout says. “I felt good because she knew what to do, but it was uncomfortable.”

After a shower, Katherine moved William over to their mother’s recliner, where she inspected his burns and applied cool washcloths. She called for her mom, who had briefly walked outside to visit a neighbor.

William had sustained partial-thickness burns to 15% of his body — doctors said Katherine’s quick actions prevented even further damage, says the Cub Scouts’ father Robert Garrett, Scout executive of the Shenandoah Area Council.

William was rushed to a hospital burn center, where he spent three days before months of continuing recovery.

Katherine, William and mother Michelle at the Boy Scout Memorial in Washington, D.C.

On the mend

The September 23 accident taught the Cub Scouts a few lessons.

“It taught us a lot about being prepared for any circumstance,” Katherine says. “I’ve gotten more interested in medical techniques and how to treat them. I was reading books on how to treat burns — first-degree, second-degree and third-degree. I was a little interested before, and I’ve been more interested after.”

“I learned to never cook standing on a stool,” William says.

You can’t blame him for being a little apprehensive now. He needed skin grafts and multiple follow-ups, but he has made a full recovery.

The brother and sister love Scouting, and though it’s been difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic, their interest in the life-changing lessons that Scouting teaches hasn’t waned.

Helpful resources

The BSA is committed to helping young people enjoy Scouting — and life — safely. Review the BSA’s Safety Moments, which cover a range of real-world scenarios from Acute Mountain Sickness to zip lines.

For guidance on first aid and fire safety, both in the home and at camp, check handbooks, merit badge pamphlets and Wilderness First Aid training.

Share your Unsung Heroes story

Stories like these brighten my day — especially because I know this kind of thing happens regularly in Scouting.

Here’s how to share the news of an Unsung Hero in your pack, troop or crew:

  • Send us an email with the subject line “Unsung Heroes.”
  • Include a detailed summary of the heroic act. If we choose to use the story, we will reach out to interview the young hero.
  • Include any “supporting documentation” you can. Examples include links to a story in your local newspaper, paperwork for a Scouting heroism award nomination or eyewitness accounts.
  • Include high-res photos of the Unsung Hero.
About Michael Freeman 262 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is an associate editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines.