It was July 24, 2011, two days before her 2nd birthday but two hours before her party. It was upper 80s, definitely not a super hot day! I walked out the side of our house to get some items for her party and unbeknownst to me, she followed me.
I heard her say “hot” and saw her on the outside wheelchair ramp. I ran the few steps to her to scoop her up and in those few seconds she had put her hands down to get off her feet, resulting in 2nd degree burns on both hands and both feet.
I ran inside and threw her in the bathroom sink and covered her with cool water. Right after she said “hot” she began screaming and it didn’t subside until the cool water hit the burns. She reduced her screams to a whimper, but I was not able to see what her hands and feet looked like. After a few seconds, I took her out of the sink but she started screaming the minute her feet and hands hit the air.
At this time I sent my older daughter across the street to get our neighbor who’s an EMT. Of course, as in any trauma, it felt like it was taking forever, so I ran Maddy across the street to him. He took one look at her feet and said, “You have got to take her to the ER!”
The town we live in has an ER but it’s not very large. The closest “big” hospital is 25 minutes away. I wanted to take the time to take her to the bigger hospital but she was crying so hard and rubbing her feet and hands together, I didn’t want her to do more damage, so we stopped at our little hospital. The visiting doctor was not overly concerned about the situation. He wrapped her up and made us an appointment for the next day at a burn unit three hours from where we live. He instructed us to do one dressing change that night and provided us with the supplies.
That night, I was absolutely in awe with the size of blisters!
The next day, we arrived at the burn center and they were shocked! They couldn’t believe we didn’t come in when it first happened. I informed them we were instructed to wait. At this first appointment they cut the blisters off and provided us with instructions of dressing changes, how to the clean the burns every night and stretches to do every hour so the skin comes back in properly. They also were very encouraging that she would heal quickly because she is so young.
They told me not to stop her from doing anything she wanted to do (like trying to walk again), that she would stop herself if it hurt. I can’t tell you now invaluable that advice was! There were many times I wanted to stop her but just sat back and cringed when she tried to do new things. Every hour we had stretches to do on both hands and both feet; we had to hold each stretch for 20 seconds each. I also had to give her a bath every night and scrub the burns to get the dead skin off so new, healthy skin could grow back. I would not be exaggerating if I told you bath time was pure torture. For both of us.
After a couple weeks, we went back to the burn center and they were once again shocked! They said the new skin had come in perfectly and she was “healed” (meaning, no open wound). We still had to continue the stretches but no longer had to do dressing changes or the scrubbing, but we did have to start lotion multiple times a day. We had to rub the lotion in and break up any scar tissue that was felt beneath the skin. She learned to enjoy this part of it and eventually started walking again too, slowly.
We continued to go to the burn center every 4-6 weeks for about 8 months so they could continue to check the skin and make sure the stretches were helping. When new skin comes in it’s very tight and has the potential to pull her fingers down and make her hand cupped – that’s why the stretches were so important.
The mental trauma took a little longer to get over. She would not go barefoot inside our house anymore, she always wore socks. We had the wheelchair ramp covered with outdoor carpet but she still would not go out that side of the house for a very long time. She is still concerned about the temperature of her bath water and has a very healthy appreciation when I tell her something is hot.
Even though I didn’t know she followed me out of the house, had I known I wouldn’t have been concerned. We lived in that home for 6 years and have older children that run up and down that ramp without shoes. The two previous owners of that home both had in-home daycares. Not to mention neighbor kids and extended family that have all been on that ramp barefoot at some point. That’s a lot of kiddos, over lots of years that have been on that ramp with no injuries. It just wasn’t something that was even on my radar!
Soon it will be hot. Super hot. I beg you, please don’t just throw your children on metal toys at playgrounds, aquatic centers, backyards or anywhere! They get hotter than we know and can seriously burn their tender skin. Plastic can get really hot too. Please, please, please check the toys your child is going to be playing on and remember if it’s hot to you, it’s hotter to them. I don’t want to see any other littles burned like she was. You don’t want your child to go through something like this.
This was taken in the ER, while we waited for the doc to come in. The picture doesn’t do it justice to how her skin had just melted off her feet!
The worst of the two hands, after they cut the blister off. You can see the new skin would have to come in right where the fingers meet the palm; that was the major concern about getting the stretches done properly and so often, so the new skin wouldn’t pull her fingers down.
Read Winston’s Story for more on how to prevent burns! It’s another post from a very brave mom – trying to help other parents avoid this trauma! Winston’s burns happened right in their home. And there’s something you should do today to prevent this.
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