We witnessed the fragility of life on Friday when my daughter H was in a freak accident with a campfire. As we were relaxing on a Friday evening, I received a call that the rescue beacon was sent off and there was help on the way to a camp trip where my daughter was with her friend and her friend’s dad for the weekend. After pacing the house for a while, my daughter’s friends Dad called me to say that she had an accident with the campfire as it exploded and she caught fire. All I could say was, “how is she going?” He put her on the phone to me and she said, it hurts so much! At the time she had water being poured over her to keep her comfortable. While she was roasting marshmallows, she was wearing synthetic fabric joggers and a thermal and they do not mix well with fire!!
The ambulance and emergency services were called and she was soon taken away by a helicopter to a hospital back in Melbourne. When I got the call she was taken away without her phone or a way to notify us where she was going and I had to investigate a way to find out where the helicopter was. Finally, I found out from the search and rescue beacon people and we drove over to the hospital at 10pm to find her in the emergency department. We totally underestimated how bad the burns were going to be and it was a complete shock to us both to see her lying there with burns to her face, arms and leg. By the time we came she had been given pain medicine to help her get through to the next stage.
I am grateful to have my friend who looked after her until the emergency services came along and took her to the hospital. Once she was in hospital she was rushed to theatre to clean out the wounds and skin and then bandage her up for her recovery in the ICU ward. Since Saturday we have not been able to chat to her as she has a breathing tube, due to the swelling in her face and having to preserve her energy to heal. To see her all bandaged up was extremely confronting and as a parent you feel so helpless! We left the hospital in shock as to what to do… the only thing we can do at the moment is take it one day at a time.
I am going to use this space to extend on a journal to keep people up to date with how she is going. If anyone is wanting to help please consider a donation to the Royal Childrens Hospital Foundation. The hospital has been incredible in keeping our daughter comfortable from all the burns and the daily care she receives is something we truly appreciate.
The first 36 hours have consisted of sleepless nights, nightmares and anxiety.
Saturday – Day 1 of PICU (Paediatric Intensive Care Unit)
On Saturday morning we received a call from the surgeon at 3:30am to say all had gone well and she was bandaged up with holes just for her eyes and mouth. Her face has been so swollen her eyes are shut and her lips are blistered are swollen as well. To see her hooked up to multiple machines for drugs to keep her comfortable, a breathing tube to conserve her breaths, a tube in her nose for feeding and a catheter for toileting was the worst experience for any parent to go through. I left the hospital in tears and have been crying for most of the weekend. We have an incredible support base here with family and friends.
Sunday – Day 2 of PICU
We rode our bikes to the hospital to help with processing the heartbreak we are going through. It was a great visit when I read to her lots of messages from her friends and family and she responded with nods as she could hear our conversations. It felt good just to have those interactions with her. We spoke to an ICU nurse and she gave us a brief rundown of how things may progress with another trip to the theatre at the end of the week to check out the healing process and the state of the burns. From there it is observing how she is healing.
Monday – Day 3 of PICU
We went in and the nurse told us she had a bit of a rough night with vomiting from the pain meds, so she has been given some other medicine to help her that will not make her sick. Also, her feeding tube has changed to one that goes directly to her stomach. Today we spent time reading messages from loved ones to her, soon realising she was heavily sedated. A social worker had a chat to us to check in to see how we were doing and emphasised the importance of spending time with her no matter how long and taking it one day at a time. The recovery will depend on her path to healing as well. We said farewell to her and said that we loved her and we will be back tomorrow.
The household is missing her energy and the cats are looking for their little friend who pesters them. I miss my little chef in the kitchen. My hubby misses his crap television buddy. Waiting is the hardest thing but we know we have to be patient and send lots of healing energy to her ❤️
Tuesday – Day 4 of PICU
Today was another day of highs and lows. We got to the hospital and had to to a RAT to check if we are COVID free and then when we got to the ICU ward, H was surrounded by Drs, nurses and dentists who were about to extubate her and remove the breathing tube from her throat as she is breathing by herself. Then a strange thing happened – they found a pea in her throat and they did not want it to travel down to her lungs. The funny thing was that my husband and I said to each other, “she hates peas, what is a pea doing there?” Then I texted her camping friend and they had fried rice for dinner 😀 So the doctors had to fish out the pea and because the important thing was to get it out it and that created more pain in her throat so they decided to put the breathing tube back in again. She was heavily sedated again with this procedure but I still played her recordings of love from family and friends and she nodded to respond. So we continued to chat to her a bit more about flowers and a card that had come with a visit from her teacher and we told her about all the people who loved her and sent her healing energy. Eventually, she was resting and healing, a good place for her to be at the moment.
A highlight of today was seeing her doing AUSLAN to the nurse to get a drink which is funny because at the moment all her fluids are coming from her IV. At least H has learned AUSLAN and maybe we can practice it again in the hospital once she gets more movement in her hands. She loved that class so much when she was in primary school and her teacher really enjoyed her presence. The other good thing is that her swelling is going down on her eyes and mouth so that is progress with her recovery. Tomorrow is another day and with the circle of love surrounding her, I can see her healing journey moving along. I am so thankful for the wonderful, caring people that are in our lives who are helping us get through this horrible time! Today, when we got home there were more flowers with some wine and cheese to help us snack out from my favourite florist in Brunswick with love from our amazing friends, who are like our family in California.
The amazing rescue team in the remote camping location landed their helicopter on the rocks to get H to the hospital ER as soon as humanly possible. Total gratitude to these incredible efforts 🙏 H’s teacher found this picture and showed it to us today, I am in awe of this rescue.
Wednesday – Day 5 of PICU
The journey to recovery is like riding your bike against the wind, it is going to be a hard slog but we will eventually get there.
Today we had a meeting the with care team – organised by the psychologist and we spoke to the burns specialist, ICU nurse coordinator and the ICU doctor. It was a hard hit of reality for the way forward. Tomorrow H is off to theatre to see how her healing is progressing and tomorrow afternoon I feel we will have a clearer picture of what lies ahead of us. We signed our consent form and she had a COVID test and is ready to go for another operation and clean up tomorrow morning. What we need to be aware of is that the road ahead is going to be us spending way more time in the hospital with her on her path to recovery. The prognosis of the burns on her face and how they are healing will indicate the time in the hospital. The burns specialist mentioned that we will be needed to help her with tasks and be by her side in the ward. At the moment in ICU, we only stay for a short time because she is sedated for the tube in her throat and the pain of the burns – so we feel that she just needs to rest.
Today she responded briefly before she was off into dreamland, the swelling is down on her face and she can open one eye. That was a really good thing as her eyes have been swollen shut for the last few days. Hopefully, her other eye can open tomorrow. Maybe her breathing tube will be out too and she can chat to us with a gravelly voice. Each day we hear the news that things are going forward but realising what the road ahead looks like it will be a huge amount of time spent in the hospital. Thank goodness we can ride our bikes there, today I had the energy to ride there against the wind as I could not wait to see our girl but on the way back my legs were sore and even though we had a tailwind I felt deflated.
I think this will be what life is going to be like for us for the next few weeks, an emotional rollercoaster where one day is great and the next day sucks! All I know it is important to stay positive and strong to get through this time in our lives. There will be good days and there will be bad days and I think today was a bad day. I feel so helpless seeing her in there but I know she is in good care and one day everything will be alright again, though we will not ever be the same going through this traumatic time together as a family. And our darling H will need to be supported as much as possible going forward as her future is forever changed.
Thursday – Day 1 of Platypus ward – moved out of ICU
Exciting things happened today but we also had the realisation that our lives are permanently changed – H’s life is going to be different and it will be important to have people around us who are accepting of what she will look like after this incident. She will be permanently scarred for the rest of her life on her face and the surgeons can work with her hands to get them to be as functional as possible. There will be a lot of therapy involved and beauty is only skin deep, she will still be our stong willed H on the inside.
This is information from the burns surgeons today:
She has multiple 3rd-degree burns on her face and hands will need skin grafts on her hands this Monday and on her face on Thursday.
She will have lifelong scarring and she will have to wear compression fabric on her body for the scarred skin. The burns on her neck could be a concern as she may not be able to have proper movement of her neck skin area but they are working with that area now to make sure it is stretching as it is growing back. The area around the eyes might be a concern as she shut her eyes super tightly in the fire, which saved her from being blind. Her nose is a 3rd-degree burn and the plastic surgeons will consult with the burn surgeons to do what they can for her at this crucial stage. Her burns around the right wrist are 3rd degree and will need grafting and she also has a splint to heal the webbing between the thumb and first finger.
There were positives today where:
H is out of ICU and she has the ability to move her arms and has the knowledge to self administer morphine for the pain in her body.
She can see us clearly with one eye and is breathing by herself – though she has a bit of a cough from the breathing tube.
Two strong fingers on her left hand can do things but she doesn’t want to look at her phone as only one eye is active and she was resting. Can say one word or so through her mouth and the tube is out of her throat – so good for her. Her hair is brushed and in a braid thanks to the people in theatre. She asked for water and we fed it to her with a spoon. She can interact with us but is in pain still. Responds by nodding and shrugging her shoulders. Also, she did sit up on the edge of the bed with the physiotherapist today.
It was a whirlwind of emotions today and all I said to my husband as we left the ward was FUCK! And then I burst into tears on the way to the car, the journey is going to be long and we all need to stick together as a family and support each other through this. The most important thing is conserving our energy for our baby (teen) girl.
Friday – Day 2 of Platypus ward
Today we were at the hospital bright and early to chat with the burns surgeon and the team supporting H. We got to the hospital before 8am and we stayed there till 4pm and it was a very long exhausting day! As I left the ward to eat lunch I came across a pair of crows who left a feather behind and according to the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation (where Melbourne is located) Waa the crow is an ancestral being in the Dreamtime story of Bunji and Waa (the protector) “bringing fire to mankind” and the crow’s feathers became black from the coals burning their feathers. I found a lovely story that highlights Waa’s role in this creation story. According to animal omens, a crow can also represent change and transformation for all of us. I am holding onto whatever hope I see in the world around us to heal our darling girl and I believe that we are all a part of this universe and nature sends us messages and all we need to do is listen out for them.
Todays Positives in the Platypus ward are:
- H stood up with the physio twice.
- Can communicate with thumbs up and is responding to the medical team and us with small whispers and hand gestures for drinking water.
- Incredible medical team supporting her recovery – ICU doctors checked up on her, the burns surgeons see her in the morning, physio and occupational therapy to help her movement, nurse on duty – Hannah was super helpful and talking her through every procedure, I just loved seeing this because being constantly prodded and poked can be very ovewhelming.
- H fatigues easily and rests after each session with the physio or check up.
- Squeezing our hands as much as she can, so I feel that strength in her body.
- H is doing facial exercises and stretching her lips with a swab on either sideof her mouth to make sure the skin is not going to contracture on itself.
- H is asking us for water and drinking sips through a spoon, it is like feeding a little bird.
The Burns surgeon gave us the low down on how the skin grafts are happening next week:
- Her burns surgeon is a specialist in scarring – this gives me reassurance that she is in the best place for this healing journey.
- The skin graft for her hands will be taken from the right leg to a full thickness graft on her hands it will take time to heal where the surgeons will monitor how the graft heals over her burns as it is really imporant for movement in these sensitive areas.
- Thursday will do the skin graft on her face and collect the skin from her other leg – the instrument looks like a cheese grater and apparently the feeling of the removal of the skin is like a graze when you stack it off your bike. The healing will be itchy for her so they will be providing anti itch oral meds to her to get through until the skin on her legs heal.
- The healing will take a while and maybe up to three weeks until she can come home, that is, if she is healing well – she can come home with the dressings on and we can look after her here. Still it is important for us to be comfortable and agree with the hospital when that decision is made. Also, H has to feel comfortable with her healing and the pain relief meds she is taking as well.
Overall H’s progress is phenomenal and she is doing so well and is conscious and interacting well with everyone. She is on the mend and it will be a long rehabilitation process and we will get there one day at a time. Each day we see progress and that is a good thing.
Saturday – Day 3 of Platypus ward
We are now 7 days in the hospital and it has been the longest week of my life!! Going in and out of the hospital is so exhausting. H is still resting a lot so I need to have something to keep me occupied to pass the time. Then H knocks her pulse monitor against the side of the bed to get attention. Her voice is still a whisper but she can respond in smaller sentences. She is really coming to the awareness of how much the fire has done to her body and she communicated to the nurse, as she tapped the bed rail with her finger to indicate her pain level was at 6.
Today I saw a butterfly fly up past the 4th-floor window and then as my friend was dropping over some love and goodness we found heaps of little butterflies on the nature strip that have been flying around our garden since she went into the hospital. Today was nothing but positives:
- H was batting my hand away as I was gently touching her head, it was as if I was annoying her.
- She thought of a way to communicate to the people around her with her pulse monitor and tapping.
- Drinking apple juice and water using a straw.
- She sat up in a chair to be weighed today with the physio team.
- Doing her face exercises with the emoji faces with my hubby on the morning shift.
- Talking in a whisper voice and telling me to skip tracks she did not like on the Spotify playlist.
H is so much better today and her little warrior spirit is out in force as I left her she held my hand and I asked her if she was scared and she said she felt safe. Today she was sleeping and resting to equal lots of healing. Tomorrow is another day and we can see how she will progress in her healing journey. I did tell her she smelt like a BBQ as I have been wearing my mask whenever I got close to her, maybe it is the skin healing or it is the bandages? I think this time in the hospital is wearing thin but we still have a long, long way to go!!!