By Tim Eberly
Lillian Hammond received 168 get well cards from friends many of them in Havre while recovering in a Utah burn center from injuries she suffered in a December cooking accident.
And after the Havre resident returned home on Feb. 16, that letter count swelled.
"I've gotten more since I got home," Hammond, 72, said Tuesday.
Until further notice, Hammond must wear a full-body stretch suit to protect newly grafted skin on certain parts of her body. In two-hour sessions, she attends physical and occupational therapy three days a week at Northern Montana Hospital to recover from the third-degree burns that covered 9.5 percent of her body.
"They say the first six months will be the worst," Hammond said. "Then the next six months will be better. But I've talked to some of my friends that have been burned and they say it takes a lot more than a year."
Doctors covered Hammond's burns with skin grafts, which temporarily "feels like somebody is pulling on you," she said.
"It's a challenge because it hurts," Hammond said. "I just have pain all the time stretch pain."
Hammond's daughter, 42-year-old Linda Bosworth, moved from West Fargo, N.D., to help her mother. Her son, Billy Sargent, bought Hammond a new stove with no open burners to prevent future cooking fires. Sargent also purchased a new rug for Hammond's living room floor, replacing one that was ruined in the cooking fire.
Hammond spent a total of 52 days in Utah. For a month and a half, she received treatment from the University of Utah's Intermountain Burn Center in Salt Lake City. She then spent five days in the South Davis Community Hospital before finishing her stay with her brother, David Burch.
After three weeks with Burch he provided her with in-patient care Hammond flew home.
The fire happened two days after Christmas. While she was cooking gravy on her electric stove, Hammond's polyester blouse caught fire. "I just went right up in flames," she said.
Hammond took off her blouse and stomped out the blaze on her floor, but not before she suffered burns from her chin to her waist, as well as on her hands.
She drove herself to Northern Montana Hospital without feeling in her hands. Hammond's husband, Ralph, 85, had just returned from the hospital that afternoon after spending fives days being treated for pneumonia, and was unable to make the drive.
Hammond, who is also diabetic, is a carrier for the Havre Daily News but will not resume her duties until she recovers.