In A Split Second – Without warning, on April 24, 2003 our family’s journey in life was changed forever.
This day started out as any other day, with me prepping for meals and assisting the head cook at a seniors care facility. We were about to have our lunch break, when I noticed a small pot on the stove that had grey smoke coming from it, so I decided to check out what was causing the smoke. While looking into the pot, I noticed the bottom was black, and I figured that whatever had been cooking in it was burned, so I turn off the burner and took the pot to the dish pit to get it washed. On my way over to the sink, a flame appeared from the pot, and I said “Oh my gosh!” and had only taken two steps when the explosion happened. The pot dropped out of my hand, crashing to the floor. All I could feel was a burning pain to my arm, and the smell of flesh and hair burning along. It all happened in a split second!
I remember my fellow co-workers screaming and crying while I called out to try and find out what had just happened. There had been margarine at the bottom of the pot, which formed an invisible layer, so when I took a step I broke the seal, causing it to explode all over my face, my arm and areas on my upper body.
My co-worker steered me to the dish pit to spray cold water over my head, not knowing it was hot water coming out first, which caused even more pain. Wet cloths were put over my head to cool me down. I was not able to see, and combined with smelling my burning flesh and hair, feeling the pain on my wrist and chilled by soaking wet clothes, this was a moment that I would not easily be able to forget.
It seemed like an eternity before the paramedics came. When they arrived, I had the feeling I was in good hands and everything was going to be okay. I barely remember the many questions asked, none of which I was able to answer. The ambulance team also wanted me to remove my clothes because of the burn. At that point, the funny thing I said in my state of shock was: “You just want to see a wet t-shirt contest!”
We were down in the basement area at that time, and I was more concerned about whether or not my male coworkers were there, as I certainly did not want to be seen with no clothes on. The paramedics were very kind to me and said they would cover me up while I removed my clothing. I think back now and chuckle at how sensitive I was about my body being on display in front of my co-workers and not realizing how serious my burn was.
I went to the hospital with one of my coworkers who kindly stayed with me. While in the hospital, the nurses were so comforting and finally were able to reach my husband whose pager was off at the time of my accident. My husband is a bit of a joker, and when he saw me, I remember him saying, “I guess I don’t have to ask you how your day went!” Just hearing his voice and holding his hand made me feel safe. This is a husband who stands by his family no matter how difficult the times are.
I still didn’t realize how serious the injury was, being far more concerned about my husband coaching our sons’ first soccer game, and what would happen to them with us not being there. As the mother of two wonderfully brave boys, it is funny how you still try to be the caring mom and worry about everyone else, not realizing that you are the one in need of help.
The doctors made the decision that I should be taken to the Burn Unit at Vancouver General Hospital, where they had more experienced burn trauma doctors on hand to deal with my facial burns. I was on the Burn Unit for a long 20 days, while having grafts to my face and my arm, all the while under the very best of care.
The nurses couldn’t believe how determined I was to get busy and heal. I was always trying to push myself to do more because I knew I had to get back to my family in Kelowna. All burn survivors know that healing does not come easily! Every day, you have to jump hurdles – and do so – because we are determined and fortunate to be alive. I think of all the amazing people I have met through this accident.
This experience has made me look at life in a more caring way. I feel others’ pain more, and certainly have become more sensitive, given the many skin grafts, and the discomfort of wearing Jobst garments. A heartfelt memory will be the words of our boys saying, “Mommy why did you get burned? We wish this hadn’t happened to you”. The journey also included a lot of counseling to deal with my inner self-confidence, and to help me move through even the smallest challenge.
I now look at myself in the mirror and like what I see. I am so grateful for all the wonderful support I was given by so many special people, the caregivers, and my husband’s parents who were guardian angels through this difficult time. With a new career as a care aid in a seniors facility, I enjoy going to work each and every day. Our family is now back on track living life and appreciating what we have, that could have been lost forever – all in a split second.
Thanks to all the burn survivors who shared their stories and feelings, through New Beginnings, the DVD “Survivors Share Their Stories”, and now on the Burn Fund website. It is a gift to know that we are not alone in dealing with our emotions, and there is always someone with a caring ear. A big thank you to THE FUTURE IS MINE for the wonderful events that connect this community, especially the “Spa Day” which made me feel like a million dollars.
We all are survivors in some way or another, and I am proud of how well I am dealing with my life today.
Wishing each and every one of you a lifetime filled with cherished moments!