The way Peyton Rogers, 2, commanded the crowd present at California's Eagles Club Saturday, it's hard to believe she's just more than a month removed from an injury that could have had much more serious consequences.
Nevertheless, the youngster cruised around the room on her brand new tricycle, community members taking turns pushing her along as her small hands gripped the handlebars. California's Fraternal Order of Eagles had thrown Peyton and her family a benefit, offering some solace after a difficult past month.
She'd suffered serious burns to both of her hands in May, leading to intensive care at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City and continued rehab care to follow. How that happened, Peyton's mother Brittany Rogers said, is quite the story.
Around 4 p.m. May 6, Brittany said she received a call from Peyton's babysitter, letting her know her daughter had suffered "a small burn on her hand." Peyton was at an unlicensed in-home day care. Brittany picked her up right away.
The small burn, it turned out, was a vast understatement — Peyton's skin was "sloughing," melting off her hand entirely. The family would later learn she had completely lost the skin on her left hand, and had just the skin on the tips of her fingers on the right.
Immediately after seeing the injury, Brittany and Peyton's father, Jesse, sprang into action seeking treatment.
"Everybody involved, I'm just in awe of how amazing everybody came together," Brittany said. "I'm emotional."
Peyton was first rushed to St. Mary's Hospital in Jefferson City, where she received pain medications to keep her more comfortable. She needed more serious care, though. Brittany said Peyton was denied by every hospital the family contacted in St. Louis and Columbia due to the severity of her injuries. Eventually, she was transferred to Children's Mercy's burn unit via ambulance.
"They didn't know what they were going to do with her for a second, it was a mess," Brittany said. "They didn't know if they were going to fly her out. She didn't fly out because, with COVID, there's limitations on who can ride (along). But you know what, even through COVID, they were still awesome."
The family stayed for five days, during which Peyton underwent four surgeries under full sedation. Following that period, Brittany said Peyton visited the burn unit weekly, sometimes twice a week, to change her dressings. There was still enough discomfort that sedation was needed for that process, too.
Up until May 15, Brittany said Peyton needed a cocktail of melatonin, ibuprofen and motrin every three hours on a rotation to help manage her pain. But by May 27, Peyton had been medically cleared to take off the full "mittens," or burn gloves, she'd been wearing as she recovered.
At that point, her burns were 100 percent healed, Brittany said. The family had previously been told that Peyton could have suffered much more serious consequences — she wasn't supposed to have full function in her hands until at least mid-August. She almost lost the fingers on her left hand, Brittany said, and the family had looked into options like a feeding tube a day removed from the original injury.
Brittany said the family has filed charges against Peyton's former babysitter for her role in the injury and, as of Monday, waits as the case is under review.
Besides seeking accountability for the incident, Brittany said she hopes Peyton's unfortunate experience serves as a cautionary tale for other parents to "know who their kids are with."
Nevertheless, Brittany said every other element at play in making sure Peyton got the care she needed was more than the family could ever have asked for.
"Through that entire process, I was just amazed (by everything)," she said. "The teamwork, I'm still blown away. And then, our amazing community threw the benefit, which I didn't even know about."
That surprise benefit was the same one at the Eagles Club building, on June 19. The family was stunned. Within a few weeks of hearing about it, the community was gathering to support the Rogers clan. Bikers cruised around Moniteau County throughout the day on a poker run, Peyton clambering atop one of the motorcycles parked on High St. for a photo before the group departed for its first stop. There were raffles and corn hole tournaments, and community members gathered for food, music and fellowship, all to support a resilient little girl and her family.
"It's amazing how so much love is in the community," Brittany said. "You wouldn't think that such a small town would show that much love and gratitude; I'm in awe."
It was heartwarming to witness, Brittany said. Here was a room full of people, some of whom didn't even know Peyton, gathering together to sing Happy Birthday to her — her second birthday is today, June 23 — and giving generously in support of her care.
"I appreciate all of you; I don't even know where to begin to say thank you," Brittany said of the event.
Peyton's energy and determination is what got her to this point, Brittany said, even though her recovery continues; she still doesn't have feeling in her right hand. Brittany said the family was approved for telehealth services the same day Peyton was cleared to take off her burn gloves, and now meets with an occupational therapist, physical therapist and burn nurse.
Brittany said in the wake of the benefit event, she can think of just one thing to ask for from the community for continued support — prayer. The family is Catholic, and Brittany and her mother would bless Peyton often while she was hospitalized.
"It's awesome if you can give, it's amazing, but sometimes there's also the faith and spirit that helps, too," Brittany said. "There's a reason why she healed so fast, and with no scarring."