More than 450 children a year are treated at Sheffield burns unit, many injured by hot drinks. Catherine Scott reports.
Had mum of two Kelsey Edwards not preferred her coffee with a splash of milk, her baby daughter could now be scarred for life.
The accident that happened one Sunday afternoon in March will stay with Kelsey and husband Richard forever, but fortunately, not for one-year-old Maisie. The toddler pulled her mum’s freshly brewed mug of coffee from a shelf and suffered burns to her face, head and upper body. Only the fact that the drink’s temperature had been lowered by a liberal splash of milk, and expert emergency care from paramedics and the Burns Unit at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, saved her from scarring. Just five months on, Maisie is almost two and apart from a sensitivity to sunlight, shows no signs of her terrible ordeal.
Kelsey is so grateful her daughter is unscathed she has raised £1,430 for The Children’s Hospital Charity by staging a sky dive with her best friend.
She also wants to warn other parents how easily such an accident can happen, and advise them on what to do to help their child.
“My heart still thumps when I remember that day and think about how badly injured she could have been,” says Kelsey, 30, of Harworth, Doncaster.
She had just made a coffee when she had to dash upstairs to her five year old daughter Libbie, who was in bed with a sickness bug.
“She was really poorly and woke up crying for me. I ran up to her after putting my hot drink on the radiator shelf in the hall, somewhere I didn’t think Maisie could reach,” she recalls.
“Seconds later, I heard a cup smashing on the floor. A feeling of dread went through me. I ran down the stairs to find Maisie standing stock-still and silent. She had managed to touch the cup and the contents had drenched her head, face and chest. Her skin was bright red and she had gone into shock from the pain.
“I picked her up and screamed for my husband Richard. He held her under the kitchen tap and we soaked her. We didn’t dare take her clothes off in case they were stuck to her skin. When the cold water hit her she started to cry. Blisters were appearing before our eyes and her skin was scarlet right down to her tummy.”
While they waited for an ambulance, the 999 call-handler advised Maisie’s parents to wrap her in towels soaked in cold water. The family had to keep changing them as the intense heat from Maisie’s body warmed them up.
Paramedics wrapped her burns in clingfilm and rushed her to Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
“The staff were wonderful. They gently cleaned her blisters and bandaged her up,” says Kelsey. “Maisie could have suffered up to 20 per cent burns. But because we had done the right thing at home, and the ambulance crew had worked so hard for her, the burns were reduced to five per cent.
“They constantly reassured me that I wasn’t to blame. But I can’t forget how easily I could have scarred her for life. I was told that if my coffee had been black, the burns would have been much worse and Maisie would probably have needed skin grafts. I want to warn people that accidents like this can happen in an instant, no matter how careful you are, especially when you have a toddler who is into everything.”
Although Maisie’s skin peeled off as it healed, she has been left without a single scar.
To thank the hospital, Kelsey and her friend Fern Milford, of Harworth, decided to raise money for TCHC by doing a sponsored skydive.
“My husband gifted me a skydive for my 30th birthday and Fern promised to join me. She is godmother to my daughters and managed to get over her fear for them,” says Kelsey. The two women jumped 15,000ft together over Brigg aerodrome, raising £1,430 for the Children’s Hospital Burns Unit.
Liz Nicholls, a nurse in the Burns Unit at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, praised Maisie’s parents for doing the right thing in the crisis: “The quick action of the parents to cool the burn and get help undoubtedly resulted in a smaller burn that did not require skin grafting to heal,” she said. “We are very grateful for their fundraising efforts to help other children at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.”
The hospital’s Burns Unit treats 450 children a year. Many of them are under three years old and a large majority of them are injured by hot drinks. The other most common causes of burns injuries to children are from touching radiators, cooking hobs, hair straighteners and spills from hot pans.
Remember the three Cs
Cool the burn under, tepid tap water for 20 minutes (cooling can be done up to three hours after the burns injury) and remove all clothing and jewellery, unless it is stuck to the skin.
Call for help – 999, the NHS on 111 or your GP for advice.
Cover the burn with loose clingfilm or if it’s not available, a sterile, non-fluffy dressing or cloth. Make sure the patient is kept as warm as possible during cooling – cool the burn but warm the patient.
National Burns Awareness Day is on October 18.