General Hospital: Spencer Becomes a Burn Victim

Nicolas Bechtel

By Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman

Who could have imagined there’d be an ongoing end of sweeps storyline that is so shocking it could practically upstage the mighty and controversial six month old Luke/Fluke story on General Hospital?

But here it is: ten-year-old Spencer (Nicolas Bechtel) was severely burned on face and body this week in a fire that broke out in the living room of  Wyndemere. Thankfully, he was rescued by Nikolas (Tyler Christopher) and Patrick (Jason Thompson), but when last seen at the end of the week was in Shriners Hospital for Children in Boston.

Shriners is a real place, of course – one of a network of 22 world renowned nonprofit hospitals that specialize in treating children with burns, orthopedic conditions, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate.   Initially, Spencer was taken to General Hospital, then transferred to Shriners for the advanced care he could receive there.

Shriners is partnering with ABC and GH in this storyline set in a real hospital, dramatizing the invaluable work it does for victims and their families. Thousands of children have been treated in burn units like the one Spencer currently occupies, and thousands of parents like Nikolas have been at their bedsides throughout.

I am of two minds about the entire fire story.

First of all, I am very disturbed by it.  Whatever happened to the old soap rule that you don’t do stories in which children are harmed or killed? (The rule has been broken several times in the past.) It is felt that mothers especially can’t bear to watch children being harmed.   GH must be desperate to do such a story, and that doesn’t work for such a classy show. The last time I was so disturbed by an endangered child story was in 2008 when twelve-year-old Michael Quartermaine (then Dylan Cash, now Chad Duell) bought a gun to imitate his mob boss father Sonny.

But this storyline does provide a service for the viewers that is admirable.  The storyline is great for the prestigious Shriners, which has never advertised on daytime before. And it’s even greater for GH.  This storyline, which is sprinkled with commercials for Shriners, is a public service,  and a feather in the cap  all those at the network, and especially executive producer Frank Valentini and headwriter Ron Carlivati.

The fire started after Spencer’s birthday party when Cameron (Michael Leone) accidentally knocked a swag bag onto a candle as he was leaving. Emma (Brooklyn Rae Silzer) and Spencer were alone dancing and unrealistically didn’t hear the alarm or smell smoke.  Emma escaped unharmed and ran for help to her father who was elsewhere in the mansion with Nikolas. Spencer went back into the fire to get his personalized boxing robe, a gift from Sonny he had received at the party.  Part of the roof caved in and Spencer was trapped.  He suffered the burns when the fire escalated. Nikolas and Patrick found him in the nick of time and rushed him to General Hospital.

At General Hospital something very unusual happened.  Absurd chief of staff, ex-criminal Dr. Liesl Obrecht (Kathleen Gati) — the chief of staff  of General Hospital always was and should be always a good guy — was given the honor of revealing Shriners participation.  As you know, Obrecht is always the personification of evil — until now.  I was shocked.

This storyline was designed as well to capitalize on the talent of the Bechtel, a child actor I have praised in the past.  This charmed child can do anything, comedy or drama.  Of course, the story wouldn’t work without Christopher.  He is always so natural.  I love their father and son scenes together, especially in this storyline. They are so powerful. Near the end of the week there was a scene in which Nicolas assured Spencer that the Shriners doctor would help him recover. I cried!

So this week, I will continue to watch the Spencer is burned story with tissue in hand.  As intended!

For more information about Shriners Hospitals for Children and how to make donations, click here.


  1. This is not a story that I want to see but it is a good PSA for Shriners and the wonderful work they do. Spencer is played by a very capable young actor and along with Nicholas, the story is genuinely emotional. Stories like this are hard to watch but they need to be told.
    If nothing else, it will be a reminder to parents that burning candles and children are potentially a lethal combo. I applaud Ron C. For having the guts to there with this possibly audience alienating material.
    I consider that we, the so called “thinking fans” are mature enough to accept this story.
    And , of course, we know that Spencer will recover quickly, in true soap opera stle.

  2. David C says:

    Yes this is a thought provoking story with obvious real life connections.
    Any chance to deservedly sing the praises of the Shriners Hospital is great, But maybe Valentini and Carlivati are also honoring a long time soap head writer Agnes Nixon who whenever she could, offered the audience some good public education about an important public issue. Case in point: In 1963 at a time when female health issues were seldom if ever discussed in public, Guiding Light’s matriarch Bert Bauer had a pap smear and apparently the ramifications of that sent thousands of the show’s female viewers to have the same procedure done too. If thousands (or more) of General Hospital’s fans seek out and donate to any Shriners Hospital in their area, the fictional story of a child burn victim might also benefit untold others. It is good to mark that thinking soap fans also know before the likes of Guza and company commandeered this genre, thought provoking storylines urging the better good for many people was almost the norm. Education about AIDS in the late 1980s(Ally My Children, Another World ,Y&R);the emerging of gay character (As The World Turns among others) in the 1990s are just some that come to mind.

  3. Sharon S. says:

    Great post Marlena but a couple of things I need to point out. The fire actually started when Cameron accidentally knocked a swag bag onto a candle as he was leaving but it took a while before it grew out of control. Not only did Spencer and Emma not smell smoke but they did not hear the smoke detector alarm which was going off either. I guess the music was too loud. And Spencer did not go back inside for boxing gloves. Sonny gave Spencer a personalized boxing robe which is what he went back in for. I really enjoy reading your posts but I’m a stickler for getting the little details correct.

  4. Marlena, the Shriners Hospital for Children scenes in Boston aren’t taped in a real hospital, but a built set at the GH studio in L.A. to look like a Shriners Children Hospital!

  5. I’ve been watching soaps since 1978. If there was a rule against kids being killed, it didn’t stop Pat Kendall’s son Brian from being run over and killed by a car on One Life to Live, or Jillian Coleridge’s son Edmund dying in a house explosion on Ryan’s Hope; or Brooke English’s daughter Laura being killed by a drunk driver on All My Children; or B.J. Jones dying after her school van crashed and Jake Spencer being run over and killed by his grandfather Luke driving drunk on General Hospital. And these are just the soaps I watched.

    I’m still not over that Brian Kendall death. I was a little younger than the character was and had never seen a TV show milk every tear out of a tragedy the way soaps did back then.

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