|Hunter Williams and his mother Amber Swasey Williams.|
The explosion reverberated through the cement room in the basement immediately after an accidental flip of a switch caused the water heater in Merrill Swasey's home at Wilberg Was to ignite. His niece Amber Williams and her son Hunter were visiting during spring break three years ago. They had gone to visit the dinosaur quarry.
Upon returning home, Hunter remembered, "Mom wanted a shower, but it was only cold water, so my uncle flipped a switch on the water heater and it blew up." Duane Merrell, a former teacher at Emery High School, was burned severely, along with his niece and her four year old son.
After lying by the open door for what seemed like an eternity before the EMTs arrived, they were life-flighted to the University of Utah Burn Center. "I didn't look like Hunter's mom," recalled Amber. "He was scared of me at first." As patients in the burn center for eight and a half weeks, Hunter, his mom, and their uncle underwent several surgeries. When they were finally able to eat solids, Hunter's first food request was Cheetos and root beer, two things they didn't have in the hospital cafeteria; the nurses had to make a trip to the store.
As a lover of superheroes, Hunter has been able to be a superhero to his family. His mom retold of a day when Hunter came up to her with his hands on his hips, looked her right in the eye and said, "Mom, if we're gonna get better we just gotta do it." Hunter never gave up and kept his mom optimistic as well. He got better and he did it with a smile.
Today, these individuals have recovered fully, but the scars that remain are constant reminders of what they survived. But those scars haven't discouraged Hunter in the least bit. In fact, when a photographer airbrushed his picture to eliminate the appearance of scars, he told him he liked his real picture better. "He's proud of who he is," his mom said. "He is who he is and he's not going to let those scars keep him down."
Hunter, now a first grader at Burton Elementary in Kaysville, already has quite the success story. For a writing workshop in his class, the students were asked to write and illustrate a book; Hunter chose to retell his memorable experience. His book, "I got brnde," is a first-hand look at how he felt about what happened that fateful day and the events that followed, including the surgeries he had to undergo.
Copies of his book were sent to young burn patients at the University of Utah Burn Center. His mom said, "He wanted other kids to know that he's okay now and that things will always get better."
The Readers' Club at Emery High School, led by Dianne Carter, invited the published author to give a short presentation and hand out copies of the book for the students on April 4. Hunter's grandmother, Sandra Swasey, said, "He was so excited to do it. He couldn't understand why he couldn't come the day after Mrs. Carter called us. He's been practicing his signature for about a month."
For a copy of the book, Hunter asked for a $2 donation; this little boy with a big heart committed to send all the proceeds to the Burn Center. Many Emery students donated more than $2 for a single copy of the book.
The Readers' Club handed the 7 year old Hunter a check in his name for $250. In expected first grade fashion with a wide grin, he simply but sincerely said, "Thanks."
Hunter quoted Yoda when he said, "There is no try; only do or do not." His belief in these words has kept him an opitimistic and amazing boy.
The Emery Readers' Club and those people that went to hear Hunter's presentation appreciate him for coming and being such an inspiration.