On the 19th February 2012, my nine month old son climbed into a bath of scalding hot water. What happened that evening has stayed with me everyday and I fear it will never leave me.
It was a Sunday evening and I was exhausted, weekends are always tiring because there is no one to help with my son. I put Liam (my son) on the floor of the bathroom and he was happily playing with water in the dogs water bowl. I turned my back and went to put my phone on charge, I sat on the bed ( we have an open plan bedroom bathroom) and was checking a message when we heard the thump. My husband jumped up and was at the bath in a second, he grabbed my son by the arm and pulled him out of the bath. Immediately I knew that we were in trouble, the skin on the sons arm was coming off in my husbands hand, I grabbed my son from the husband and pulled off his baby grow and nappy to prevent him from burning further, I wrapped him in a towel and was down the stairs heading for the car within minutes. My son was screaming the whole time.
My husband and I rushed him to our nearest hospital (Fourways Life) I just ran into the emergency room with Liam in my arms. Within seconds we had 4 nurses administering aid to my son. They covered his little burnt body in burn shield, whilst waiting for the Pediatrician on call to arrive. The paediatrician on call never arrived (for reasons I don’t want to get into) but a Pediatric surgeon was called out to the hospital that night from Garden City. It was originally suggested that due to the nature of my sons injuries that we be transported to Garden City, but there were no beds available at the time.
My son was wheeled into the Pediatric ICU and as we were being wheeled in, I overheard the surgeon briefing the nurse, he told her that my son had third degree burns on 80% of his body, she then responded “and he is still alive?” I asked the surgeon if my son was going to be OK and he told me that babies his age died from lessor burns. That scared the hell out of me.
The next 72 hours were the hardest of my life and haunt my every dream. The morning after the accident Liam was taken into surgery and his little body scrubbed to clean all his burns of loose skin. He then had artificial skin grafts done, the surgery was a success, but we were told that this was not going to be a quick fix, we were told that Liam could be in the hospital for 2 months and that he might need further surgeries to repair damage to his hands.
He looked dreadful all swollen and wrapped from head to toe in bandages. I couldn’t hold him or breastfeed him. I was lucky that I was allowed anywhere near my baby. INFECTION, that is what we had been told to fear. The next 72 hours are critical they told us. Over the next few hours I watched as my baby’s condition started to deteriorate, his breathing became raspy and laboured and the nurses where worried that he was going to develop pneumonia. He had to have a catheter put in because the morphine was preventing him from being able to pass urine. His heart rate went through the roof and his oxygen stats where low. I didn’t sleep at all for those terrifying 3 days. Every time I left him I thought he was going to die. At the lowest point my son developed an infection and I was told that in order to save my sons life he was going to need a blood transfusion. That was the night that my father arrived from Scotland. I watched my father cry as he saw his grandson for the first time. His Grandson was fighting for his life and yet he was happy that he had the chance to see him. At this point only myself and my husband where allowed in with Liam, we had to wear gowns masks and gloves to try and prevent infection.
The sun rose the Liam’s fourth day in hospital and my son opened his eyes for the first time since the accident. That really was the turning point for me. I knew then that my son was going to be OK. The blood transfusion had worked, and like something out of Vampire Diaries my son was 100 times better than what he had been hours earlier. The days that followed are a blur… Liam went into surgery again, to have his dressings changed and we were relieved to hear that the skin grafts had taken. There were daily visits from wound specialists, Physiotherapists, dietitians and Paediatricians. My son went from strength to strength surprising everyone and only 11 days after the accident we were given the all clear to take my son home.
It was a great moment walking out those doors with my son. We still had a ways to go, but I knew the worst was behind us. He had follow up surgery to remove the staples holding the skin graft in place his skin looked good. He was obviously very red but I was told that would fade over time, and then it was over no more doctors hospitals or specialists, but the affects of that time are still with me even now.
My son has fully recovered and does not have a mark to show for his ordeal and for that I will be forever grateful, but I will never forgive myself for what happened. Every night I look at my son and see the ever so slight scars left from the staples and think of what could have happened if we hadn’t been so lucky.
How did I let something like that happen to my son. What type of mother turns her back on her child. I have been told that I have no reason to feel guilty, but I do, and I cant seem to let it go. When people hear about what happened to my little boy, I wonder what they must think of me, of the type of mother I am. If I hate myself for what happened what must they think.
I am forever grateful that my son came through this ordeal unharmed and with no evident psychological scaring.
I wish I was as lucky.
You were quick and you saved him.
I'm glad everything is OK now!
I'm confused...were you filling up the bath or did Liam turn the hot water on himself? When we lived with my Dad last year it was a fight with him to keep the hot water temp on the water heater down. He liked scalding hot showers, but me and DH wanted it lowered in case the kids turned the hot water on.
I am glad your baby is okay. I would feel just as guilty but I'm sure that will pass over time. My now 3 yr old DS has had stitches in his chin (which my DH still feels guilty about because he fell when playing ring-around-the-rosie with him), staples in his head (he fell right in front of me hitting his head on some wood), and a cast from his chest to his ankles for a broken femur (which again my DH feels guilty for as he was chasing him in the backyard when it happened). I guess what I'm trying to say is accidents can happen even when we are standing right there with our children. Your quick response helped him I'm sure, and you are not a bad parent.
Vegetarian mother to (3/09) (11/10) and (4/13)
Thank you for sharing your story here. I am so glad your son is okay. What a blessing.
I agree with all the pps. I have had numerous moments when I realized I lost track of what my child was doing. We have been lucky in all of these instances, but there have been several where we could have lost a child, and I am grateful every day that we did not. Be gentle with yourself, I cannot judge you negatively for this, because I know it could have been me.
(((Hugs))) What a story! What a nightmare...
I'm typing this with a left hand with scars. At age three, I grabbed a box of matches and lit one. Scared, I dropped it on my nightgown.
My doctor father and nurse mother grabbed me and fully clothed, she jumped in the shower with me in cold water. Their medical backgrounds helped them know what to do-cool the burn. After a few minutes, wet, they jumped in the car and rushed me to the emergency room. I'm not out to make you feel guilty (because what you did may have been the best plan, given the large area of burns) but anyone reading, please take note. The burn continues inside the skin, even when the heat source is taken away. If your child touches the stove or an iron, keep it under the cold water for awhile.
I had 3rd degree burns but only a few places. The scars used to be bright red but with time, have almost disappeared. They're still bumpy but are the same color as the rest of my skin since I was in my teens.
I have absolutely no memory of it, and again, I was 3, much younger than your son at 9 months.
But once on vacation, I asked my sil and my dh to watch our 18 monther while I went swimming with sil's dd. Of course, both were yakking on the telephone and didn't pay attention. DD wandered into another area with another pool and fell in. A man jumped in, fully clothed and with his cell phone to save her. Later, he wouldn't take any money or compensation. He simply said (through a translator) that we would have done the same if that happened to his son.
Needless to say, I still feel guilty. She wasn't hurt at all and it was my dh who was supposed to keep an eye on her but the guilt is still there. I refuse to vacation with the sil and her family (they're going to California this summer where I'm from and I still refused). I'm grateful every day for her. I'm so grateful to that stranger who saved my little girl. The very thought of what could have happened is enough to get me teary, and it's been over a decade. I doubt it will ever go away.
My mom too feels guilty. She keeps saying "If your father hadn't been there..." but I told her, once I became a mom, perhaps that was one of the reasons why she had let her guard down. I know I let my guard down when there's another adult present.
You didn't have the luxury of closing the bathroom door because of the open plan.
One tip I've read is to turn the temp of the water heater down but we lived in an apartment with one large boiler so that wasn't possible.
EVERY mother has at least one close call. We are all carrying that guilt of "what if..." In your case, you paid a high price for what was an oversight any parent has and does do. You have your son. He survived so you have to put that behind you. The guilt is something we all have to acknowledge and accept. It's normal and natural to feel that way. Every mother has something to feel guilty about. It's our job in life. Accept your guilt, don't fight it but don't let it override the rest of your life, or decisions about your son.
Think; sharing this story might have already saved a child's life! Someone out there, or someone who you told in person told someone else... and they kept the bathroom door locked (which you couldn't but might have if it had been possible), kept the child away, etc. Stories like this spread quickly, even when the names and faces can no longer be recalled. Your son did survive, after your nightmare and his story may be helping to prevent it happening again.
I've never minded my scars, even with the occasional rude comment when I was young. I was playing a piano once and heard "Eeeewwww!" from another child. "Oh yeah?" I told them "It's just a burn. You've never seen one before? Let's see how well you can play piano?? huh??" I'd share my story if anyone asked and added a "Don't leave matches around your child!" as my personal public service announcement.
I always understood, never blamed my mother and have no memory. It's never affected my life negatively. My scars are like war wounds, actually. A good story to tell. A reminder to be careful. Your son also will like his story of survival when he's old enough to understand it, and he'll be just a bit more careful someday with his own kids, as I was with mine...
Thanks for sharing!
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