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Teen Ends Up in Burn Unit After Cutting Down 'Weed'

Virginia's Alex Childress suffers severe burns after coming across giant hogweed
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 13, 2018 1:15 PM CDT
Alex Childress, with the burns he suffered after touching the plant.   (GoFundMe)

(Newser) – The "giant horror plant" that recently popped up in Virginia sent a teen working his summer job to the VCU Medical Center burn unit in Richmond, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Alex Childress, who plans on attending Virginia Tech in the fall, was weed-whacking around Fredericksburg on Tuesday when he stumbled across a plant he thought was just that—a big weed. He cut it down and discarded it in the forest, but not before it had slid across his arm and face. When his father came home later that day, he was met with a shocking sight. "The top layer of skin on the left side of [Alex's] face basically was gone and appeared to be like a really bad burn that had already peeled," Justin Childress says, noting that Alex thought he'd gotten a bad sunburn. That night, when he took a shower, Alex tells People, "big chunks of my face were falling off."

It was Alex's mother, a nurse, who made the connection with the giant hogweed plant, and he confirmed when she showed him a photo. (See one here.) The 17-year-old received intensive treatment for second- and third-degree burns for three days. Because the plant was tossed away, botanists have not been confirmed it was a giant hogweed, but Alex's ailments are in line with its dangers. The plant has turned up for the first time in at least three Virginia counties so far this year. On a GoFundMe to pay for his medical bills, which has so far raised $7,000 or so, Alex writes that he had a full scholarship to Virginia Tech through the Army ROTC, but "I may end up [losing] it now because of medical disqualification," adding, "I am not one to ask for help I am always helping other people whenever and wherever I can, but now I am in need of help." (Read more giant hogweed stories.)

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