VIRGINIA -- The Virginia teenager severely injured by giant hogweed is home from the hospital recovering after the the toxic plant removed chucks of his skin.
Alex Childress is now hoping to spread awareness about the dangerous weed which left him with 2nd and 3rd degree burns.
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He was injured a week ago and since being released from the hospital, must stay indoors out of the sun while the skin on his right arm and face grows back.
"I took a hot shower and large portions of my face started to peel away," Childress explained.
The 17-year-old cut down a giant hogweed plant while working a summer job clearing weeds.
"It fell over, briefly touched my face and then I picked it up and I was carrying a bunch of other stuff under my arm," said Childress.
Later, his face turned red and he thought it was just sunburn.
"I knew it wasn't sunburn burn and knew he had to immediately go to the emergency room," said Alex's mom, Christy Childress, a critical care and ICU nurse. She is able to do his wound care.
The wounds are like chemical burns. When combined with sunlight, the sap of the giant hogweed can cause 2nd and 3rd degree burns and permanent blindness.
"It's popping up all over. You don't want a little kid going and touching it," said Childress.
That's why he agreed to be interviewed. He wants everyone to know about giant hogweed. Even doctors have not been aware of it.
When Alex was in VCU's burn unit, curious doctors kept coming in to get a look.
"They were like, we've never really heard of this, so we're going to document it as much as we can. They were taking pictures and sending them to other doctors," said Childress.
Alex's face has been healing nicely, and his arm is getting better slowly.
But doctors aren't exactly sure how fast he'll recover.
Alex is thankful his 15-year-old brother Isaiah, who was working the same job, did not touch the hogweed.
Something you wouldn't think about, with an injury like this, is your water supply.
Alex has to take showers to brush off the dead skin, but because the Childress's live in the country and are on well water, doctors were worried about bacteria in the water. So, they came to his aunt's house in Fredericksburg, which is on city water.
Alex graduated with multiple honors from Spotsylvania High School and earned a ROTC full ride scholarship with Virginia Tech's Corp of Cadets. Orientation is in two weeks and Alex plans to be there.
The family says Virginia Tech will allow him to put off school until he is healed, if necessary.
They are hoping the giant hogweed burns do not leave Alex with permanent medical issues.
If he loses his ROTC scholarship, his parents say they will not be able to afford Virginia Tech.
The Childresses have four boys.
The Childress family has set up a GoFundMe account to help with Alex's medical bills.