At age 2, Damon Gaddis is graduating. And his family is ecstatic.
The toddler finished the last of his treatments at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Austell last month following an incident June 13, 2014, in which he suffered second- and third-degree burns, allegedly at his day care.
At first, mother and son traveled 2½ hours one way to the Austell burn center each month.
“We both hated being in the car that long,” mother Megan Seabolt said.
The frequency of his visits made him well known to the nursing staff, as he would “walk around like he owned the place” as a hyperactive toddler armed with a coloring book, Seabolt said.
Operations included taking skin from another part of his leg to graft on the affected area.
“Even when he was wrapped up in gauze, he would like try his best to get around,” Seabolt said.
Monthly visits later turned to quarterly checkups and then a final graduation from the burn center.
“He doesn’t need to come back until he’s probably almost a teenager for the next surgery,” Seabolt said.
The damage, allegedly done that day at Discovering Basics in Clermont, still leaves its mark, though.
Damon can’t stay out in the sun too long and needs to have strong suntan lotion on daily, Seabolt said. And though the leg has healed, he’s still scared of hot water, she said.
“He always loved getting in the bath and stuff,” she said. “Now, he refuses to take a bath. When I put him in the bath, it’s about three minutes.”
And they both have trouble trusting day care workers.
Hall County Sheriff’s Office investigators believe day care worker Eddye Pittmon, 55, of Talmo, put hot water on Damon’s leg, according to an indictment.
Water in the center’s Crock-Pot tested at 161 degrees, according to investigators
Site director Tara Miller, 40, and owner Minnie Dupree, 66, both of Gainesville, were also indicted. Discovering Basics closed on June 24, 2014.
Miller faces a charge of second-degree child cruelty for allegedly not seeking medical attention for the burn. Dupree faces charges of influencing a witness, false statements and tampering with evidence.
She allegedly told Sheriff’s Office Investigator Angelyn Miller the day after the search that “the running water in the infant room of the (Discovering) Basics (day care) did not get hot,” according to the indictment.
Dupree’s attorney Graham McKinnon has said they will fight to clear Dupree’s name.
“It’s a shame that these charges are being brought after a lifetime of dedication to children and infants,” said Pittmon’s attorney, Troy Millikan.
Millikan added that he and his client were upset about the upgrading of the charges from first-degree child cruelty to aggravated battery in the indictment.
“Ms. Miller is very innocent, and we look forward to proving her innocence. She did nothing wrong; she had no knowledge of this,” said Miller’s attorney, Jeff Talley.
Superior Court Judge Jason Deal allowed the case to be continued to a later date after the prosecution presented a list of 29 witnesses.
Seabolt started taking Damon to Kid’s World day care in Gainesville in August following the alleged incident.
“It was really hard to trust anyone again, because we both have separation anxiety,” Seabolt said.
Seabolt said she and her four other children are enjoying having a resemblance of normal life, adding that some of them don’t have a full memory or understanding of the alleged incident.
Seabolt’s 9-year-old daughter Jada was hit hardest by Damon’s injury, Seabolt said, as she was the only one not at the day care when the alleged incident occurred.
“She kind of blames herself, because she’s like ‘I wish I was there. If I was there, maybe it wouldn’t have happened,’” Seabolt said.