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A 3-year-old is on the long road to recovery after a freak accident last week left him with third-degree burns
covering his legs.
Late Wednesday evening a raven that apparently flew into some power lines near the 800 block of South
Allen Street started a fire on a wooden fence on a property near David and Challice Neipp. David saw the fire,
and rushed out to help extinguish it.
The Neipps’ 3-year-old son Stephen, who was playing in the yard at the time, attempted to follow his dad
down the street. David spotted his son and began jogging back to move him out of harm’s way. Before he
could get to him, Stephen tripped on an exposed power line. David quickly pulled him from the wire, but the
electric jolt was enough to severely burn the boy’s feet and lower legs.
An evaluation by medical staff at Ridgecrest Regional Hospital yielded an early diagnosis of second-
degree burns. The child was transported to the Burn Unit of San Joaquin Community Hospital in Bakersfield
for further analysis and treatment.
At the burn center the family learned from a specialist that the burns were in fact third-degree. The first two
days were spent determining whether the jolt had caused nerve or organ damage. The family learned that
although the treatment would be long, and painful, Stephen could make a full recovery.
David was also evaluated, and cleared, of any damage caused by his contact with the current.
During the first several days in the hospital, family and friends of the Neipps began a Facebook campaign
to raise support for the uninsured family. So far David and Challice are staying with Stephen and their two-
month-old son, Benjamin, in the same hospital room as their son.
“We were offered a place to stay in the Ronald McDonald House, but it was just too far away,” said Challice.
She told the News Review that while the effects of Stephen’s burns have been managed somewhat by
pain medication, even relatively noninvasive treatments cause her son tremendous pain.
Several procedures have indicated that the best-case scenario for Stephen’s release will be today, after
his first skin graft. Challice noted, however, that they have been cautioned to wait until it is clear he is free from
fever, infection or other risks. “It’s a tour-hour trip if we have to come back, so I think they want to be on the
In the meantime, she is making her son as comfortable as possible in his temporary surroundings.
“I’m not sure he really understands,” she said. “He asks why he can’t go home, why he can’t go out and
play, why he can’t see his sister,” 4-year-old Emma, who is staying with relatives in Ridgecrest.
But Stephen usually has times during the day when he is playing, laughing and enjoying the company of
his family, visitors, and the hospital staff.
“They have been so amazingly compassionate,” said Challice.
The treatment calls for skin grafts every six to 12 months. Physicians will take skin from his upper leg and
move it to his lower legs. “They say it will be like getting a burn all over again,” said Challice.
Because of Stephen’s age, the procedures will probably take place regularly over the next 15 years.
The family is clinging to the silver lining that came with the unexpected trauma — an outpouring of love,
prayers, best wishes and even donations to the family.
“I feel so blessed,” said Challice. “People have been very generous to us.”
Already an extreme couponer and do-it-yourselfer, Challice said that she is making it a personal challenge
to honor those donations by making the most of them.
Friends of the Neipps can follow the progress and recovery of Stephen, as well as make donations to his
PayPal account, at Help Stephen & Family on Facebook.
“The love and care people have shown us has been amazing,” said Challice. “We just hope that we can
repay that — if not to each of those people, then to someone who needs it.”
Three-year-old Stephen Neipp enjoys the time between procedures at the Burn Unit of San Joaquin
Community Hospital in Bakersfield. Photos by Braelyn Havig
Burn victim on the mend
By REBECCA NEIPP,
News Review Staff Writer