Update: Christmas miracle continues for Hannibal girl

Gabby in December, 2010 at Shriners Hospital

UPDATED: March 25 at 9 a.m.

"I feel like we've had a guardian angel overhead."

That's Karla Willett, talking about her family's experience since her granddaughter Gabby was severely burned in the Philippines.

Take a look Gabby's latest picture. Even through the bars of a hospital crib, you can see Gabby is no longer prisoner to her pain. She's on the path to healing. But make no mistake, it's a long road. She still makes trips to the Shriners Hospital in Cincinnati every six weeks. She's likely to need treatment until she's 18-years-old.

Gabby's 21-months-old now, and she's starting to come out of her shell after she pulled a pot of boiling water on herself last December.

"She's quiet and calm, but I'm starting to see a little stinker in her," says her grandma. "Her personality is starting to come out."

Gabby and her parents, Beau and Jam Willett, have had a lot to overcome. They struggled through mounds of red tape to get her to the states for treatment. For mom and baby, the trip here was their first time out of their native Philippines. The culture shock could only rival the shock of our cold weather for Jam. Now Beau is looking for work as a teacher, which is hard to come by with all the cuts in education lately. But their guardian angel came through once again this week, when Jam received her permanent resident green card.

The main concern for Gabby now is that she continue to heal without a massive build up of scar tissue. That's not just a cosmetic concern; scar tissue could restrict the movement in her muscles and cause major problems. Gabby's face is healing well, but there are deep scars under her jaw and on her back, where doctors performed a skin graft.

Hannibal has stepped up to help the Willett family with their expenses. There's a fund at Holy Family Church. The latest event is a dinner auction fundraiser coming up at 5 p.m., Saturday April 9th at the K of C Hall in Hannibal. To get tickets or to donate to the event, click here.


Baby Gabby Willett is back in Hannibal, recuperating from severe burns she recieved in the Philippines.

Gabby pulled a pot of boiling water on herself in December, and her parents, Beau and Jam Willett, had a terrible time trying to get her to the United States for proper medical care.

This week, Gabby returned to Hannibal from Shriners Hospital in Cincinnati . She's receiving treatments here to help in her recovery.

Gabby's grandmother, Karla Willett, says Gabby is now fitted with three sets of compression garments. It's like a tight girdle. Most women will tell you a girdle is uncomfortable enough. Now imagine how it feels to Gabby, whose torso is covered with the red, raw skin of an angry burn. The compression garments also cover Gabby's arms and legs. They are difficult to put on and it's a very painful process for this 19-month-old. Gabby also requires daily medical massage to minimize scarring.

Despite the trials ahead, the Willett family is celebrating all the progress Gabby has made since her accident. Her family will be able to take her out of the house occasionally, and they look forward to thanking everyone for their prayers that helped in Gabby's recovery.

A fund is set up through Holy Family Church to help with medical expenses.


A Christmas eve dinner was chili burritos from Skyline Chili and the big meal on Christmas day was burgers and grilled cheese from the hospital cafeteria grill for Gabby and her family, but it didn't matter, they were all there together.

Earlier this month, Gabby pulled a pot of boiling water on herself and has severe burns.

The Willett family feels blessed to be at a Shriner's Hospital. They told KHQA that the hospital is taking great care with Gabby's burn treatments.

The community donated children's Christmas presents presents because Gabby and the rest of the kids there at the Burn Center received wonderful Christmas gifts.

In the picture Gabby is wearing a winter hat that grandma bought. The family says that Gabby is such a tough little girl. She insisted on buttoning the chin strap on the cap despite the burns and bandages under her chin.

Twice a day they must scrub her burns. It is enough to make a grown man cry and her grandpa says that he does cry. Gabby cries through the whole procedure and when it is done she claps her hands because she got through it and tells the nurse "Bye - bye" to try to get her to leave.

The operations started on December 27 and KHQA was told that doctors used a synthetic skin that includes pig's skin along with an ingestible antibiotic.

As we understand it, they will not have to scrub the burns after that.

Then it looks like skin grafts will take place on Thursday with a couple of weeks of recovery after that.

Gabby's grandparents will keep KHQA updated as frequently as they can.

Feel free to scroll down and post your thoughts and prayers for the family as a comment below this story.


A Hannibal family is getting a Christmas miracle.

Karla and Joe Willett's granddaughter, Gabby, is 18-months-old.

Earlier this month, she pulled a pot of boiling water on herself and has severe burns.

You can see some of her injuries in photographs given to KHQA by Gabby's family.

She lives with her parents, Beau and Jam Willett, in the Phillippines, where Beau teaches and does mission work.

We spoke with Karla Willett Thursday morning.

She was getting ready to leave for Cincinnati, where she will pick up her son, daughter-in-law and Gabby at the airport on Friday.

Baby Gabby then will have treatment at a Shriner's hospital there.

It's taken several weeks to make the arrangements to bring the family here because the child's mother is not a U.S. citizen. Sen.. Claire Catskill's office was instrumental in cutting through the red tape to get Gabby to the United States.

To make this Christmas miracle even better, this will be the first time the Willetts get to see their granddaughter in person.

On a side note, Karla needs a home for an adult male, declawed and nuetered Himalayan cat. They won't be able to have the cat in their home when Gabby comes home. Email KHQA at if you would like more information from the family.

The family is going to set up a fund for Gabby's expenses, but they've had to put it on hold while they make the trip to the hospital. We'll know more on that later.