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MOTHER BURNED IN FIRE AIRLIFTED TO CINCINNATI

The 5-year-old girl seriously burned in a weekend house fire continued fighting for her life in a Cincinnati hospital Tuesday. Her mother -- who also suffered serious injuries -- was airlifted to a hospital near where her daughter remains in critical condition.

Hospital administrators said the move is intended to lessen the family's hardship.

Atarah Dickinson suffered second- and third-degree burns over 95 percent of her body after a fire in her home at 193 Wakefield Ave. that started shortly before 2 a.m. Saturday.

She was airlifted Saturday from Children's Hospital to the Shriners Burn Institute in Cincinnati.

Her mother, Teresa, was flown from Erie County Medical Center's burn unit Tuesday and arrived at University Hospital in Cincinnati for treatment. Mother and daughter had a brief visit at Shriners before Dickinson was admitted into University Hospital.

Such arrangements are common at the two hospitals, but it is rare for a patient in intensive care -- as Dickinson is -- to be brought in, said Shriners spokeswoman Louise Hoelker.

"This is a special case. Getting them both here closer is easier for the family. This way the family can see both of them in the same city instead of being pulled between two cities," Hoelker said. "And it's good for the healing process."

"Teresa is doing a little bit better. Shriners made the arrangements for her to be airlifted down here so she can be close to her daughter," Robin Nichols, Dickinson's brother-in-law, said Tuesday from Shriners.

Atarah, who remains heavily sedated to decrease movement that could worsen her condition, responded to the sound of her mother's voice on a speaker phone Monday.

"She can't speak, but she can hear," Nichols said. "But when she heard her mother's voice, her blood pressure went up. Her heart rate went up, and she responded in a way that was comforting to the family."

Atarah's father, Jamal, has been by his daughter's side constantly, along with other family members, Nichols said.

"He's staying strong for her," Nichols said. "She will have to have several more operations -- another one (today) and another on Thursday, then four to five more next week if these different phases go as well as the first one did."

The family has been told that every surgery Atarah has is high-risk.

"They say 95 percent of children with these type of injuries don't survive, but we have a lot of hope and prayers," Nichols said. "We're asking for everyone to pray for our family."

In addition to sending prayers, concerned citizens have set up the Atarah Dickinson Fund at the Towne Garden branch of M&T Bank. Contributions to the fund may be made at any M&T branch.

Firefighters at Engine 21, Jefferson Avenue and Kingsley Street, where Nichols is a firefighter, are accepting toy donations for Atarah and her three siblings.

"I'm so overwhelmed because every time I turn around, I'm hearing wonderful news from home and then I go upstairs and the doctor comes out and says everything is successful. It's been one blessing after another," Jamal Dickinson said.

"She can't talk, but she knows I'm here. A few years ago, I taught her the 'Now I Lay Me Down' prayer like I did with all my kids. Now when I say it to her, she moves," he said. "She's a very strong little girl. I don't know what I'll do if she doesn't make it through this, but I believe she's going to make it."

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