ND EMR responds to own house fire, 2-year-old son severely burned

Fellow first responders set up a fundraiser for Enderlin and First Medic Ambulance EMR Shelby Jankowski's son Royce


John Reinan
Star Tribune

ENDERLIN, N.D. — The call that every first responder dreads is to an address they know. Worst of all is when the call is for their own home.

That's the call Shelby Jankowski got this week in Enderlin, N.D., a community of 900 residents about an hour southwest of Fargo.

Royce Jankowski, 2, was airlifted to the Twin Cities for medical care after being badly burned in a mattress fire at his home in Enderlin, N.D. His mother, EMR Shelby Jankowski, was among those called to the scene.
Royce Jankowski, 2, was airlifted to the Twin Cities for medical care after being badly burned in a mattress fire at his home in Enderlin, N.D. His mother, EMR Shelby Jankowski, was among those called to the scene. (Photo/Star Tribune)

When she and other medical personnel arrived at the scene, they discovered Jankowski's 2-year-old son, Royce, with third-degree burns over 30% of his body from an unexplained mattress fire.

"Any time you hear a child, your adrenalin starts pumping a little bit more," said Tim Owen, a paramedic with First Medic Ambulance of Lisbon, N.D., who was with Jankowski on the call Tuesday afternoon. "And when it's an address you know, then the adrenalin pumps even more."

Owen and his regular partner were on duty when the call came to the station in Lisbon, about 20 miles west of Enderlin. Jankowski, who volunteers both in Lisbon and Enderlin, was there when it came in.

"Shelby was right at the door, saying, 'Hey, that's my address, that's my son,' " Owen said. There was no question about whether she'd come on the call, he said, recounting the tense 20-minute ambulance drive to Enderlin with siren blaring and lights flashing.

When they arrived, local responders had already gotten Royce out of the house and wrapped him in sterile bandages. Owen had to remove the bandages so he could assess the boy's condition.

Meanwhile, Jankowski jumped right in, comforting her son and calming his fears.

"She was there, saying, 'It's OK, bubba, it's all right. Everything's going to be fine,' " Owen said. "Everything's OK, hang on, honey. We know you're hurting.'

"It's amazing how chill she was," Owen said. "She was a real rock star."

They drove Royce to CHI Lisbon Health, the local hospital, with his mother riding in back with him and continuing to reassure the child. There, they had a stroke of luck: Dr. Thomas Matheson, an emergency physician, had worked at a major burn center earlier in his career.

He helped get Royce stabilized while arrangements were made to fly the child directly to the Twin Cities for treatment at Regions Hospital. His mother accompanied him on the flight.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help pay for Royce's medical care.

The episode was shocking, not only for Jankowski, but for all the medics and responders involved, Owen said.

"They all know Shelby at Enderlin," he said. "That is their friend and co-worker. For Alex, my partner, that was her second shift.

"For me, I had my own little moment where I had time to reflect and absorb [the experience]. And then it was right on to the next call."

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(c)2021 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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