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Originally published Sunday, March 2, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Girl survives burns from lye

Eight-year-old Savannah Fitzgerald's sweet tooth almost killed her. The Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, girl is recovering at home from severe burns...

The Spokesman-Review

Eight-year-old Savannah Fitzgerald's sweet tooth almost killed her.

The Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, girl is recovering at home from severe burns caused Feb. 4 when, thinking it was sugar, she ate a handful of the lye her mother uses to make soap.

The nightmare began when Savannah's mother, Brandee Marshall, stepped out of the kitchen where she was making soap to take care of some laundry. Within seconds she heard Savannah screaming. She ran back to find her daughter with her hand to her mouth and spilled lye on the floor.

"She's in a sugar stage," said Marshall of Savannah. The granular lye, stored in a plastic bag, looked just like sugar to the young girl.

Marshall called her former husband to take the child to the hospital.

Chris Fitzgerald and Savannah's grandmother, Gail Fitzgerald, took a frightened Savannah to Kootenai Medical Center.

The news wasn't good.

Doctors said Savannah would have to be airlifted to Spokane. A breathing tube was inserted to keep her alive.

"You were afraid I was going to die," Savannah reminded her mom.

Doctors told the family Savannah might never speak again. Thankfully she can now talk.

For Savannah, however, the healing is just beginning. She is still on a feeding tube because the condition of her mouth and throat make eating painful and food tasteless.

Still, Savannah is full of energy and enthusiasm for her pets, friends and pop star Hannah Montana. Family members say they expect her to make a full recovery.

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Marshall has locked up her soap-making supplies and taken additional steps to protect children she doesn't even know.

She's written up Savannah's story, photocopied it to be handed out at soap-supply stores and posted it on online soap-making message boards.

"I cannot erase what happened," she writes. "I can only serve as a warning, and pray nobody has to ever experience this again."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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