School helps new AF family deal with tragic accident - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

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School helps new AF family deal with tragic accident

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Posted: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 8:00 am

It is not easy being the new kid in town.

For Rodolfo Saldivar, 4, his situation makes the hurdles even higher.

On July 23, 2009, living with his family in Hermosillo in Sonora, Mexico, tragedy struck on a night that started out like any other.

Father Rudy Saldivar and mother Maribel Sainz had just put their two young children to bed. It was late that night and Maribel asked her husband if he wanted a late dinner. He said he did.

As Maribel began preparing in the kitchen, Rudy left the house to go outside only for a moment.

Then Maribel turned on the stove.

There was hissing, and then, a boom.

"It sounded like when you slowly turn the top on a bottle of soda, much louder," she said.

Rudy was in shock. He could not believe what had just happened.

A cloud of flame from the stove had swept over Maribel, giving her third-degree burns on 65 percent of her body. Sleeping in their rooms, Rodolfo suffered third-degree burns on about 35 percent of his body, and 3-month-old Diego had them on about 10 percent of his body.

"He ran in to get the kids, and he ran in to get me," Maribel said. "We were all out on the front lawn and the neighbors were helping out. I got into the ambulance, and I don't remember much after that."

It is a tragedy that can strike at any time. Maribel, who has gone through hours and hours of skin-grafting and other surgery, said it was an event that has changed her life forever.

"You just learn to appreciate every moment you are alive," she said. "I thank God that we are all still here."

Investigators into the accident concluded that the explosion was caused by a failure in the pressure regulator of the home's propane system.

"They said the house was pressurized with gas. We had been out of town for a week and there was not any smell because the gas had settled closer to the floor," Rudy said.

After being in the hospital for almost two months after the accident, Maribel and the family moved to Phoenix to be closer to the Arizona Burn Center. The two boys were in Boston at Shriners Hospital, a burn center for children.

"(Maribel) thought she was never going to walk again," Rudy said. "Due to the therapy and doctors and everything else, it happened. I mean, it's an amazing place."

On Friday, Aug. 13, Rodolfo was given the Hero Award at Kyrene de los Lagos Elementary School. In front of the student body, Principal Tonja Yalung called Rodolfo on stage to tell the students how the young boy exemplified two of the schools' Six Pillars of Character: caring and respect.

"He has, their whole family has been through so much, that I was happy to recognize Rudolfo," Yalung said.

The road to a full recovery is far from over for the family, but things are better than they were, Rudy said, because family sticks together.

"Some might think it would be the other way around, but it is Maribel who is my inspiration," he said.

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