Guest post – A lot of people know that in June, my youngest son burnt around 80% of his body with hot water. I haven’t really written about the experience in full, because it’s still one of the most traumatic things I have lived through.
It was just 2 days after Eli’s second birthday, and we were celebrating Father’s Day. The following day was a public holiday and the kids were on school holidays, so we figured we’d order Mr.D and have a movie night. After placing our orders, we realized we didn’t have ice-cream and chocolate sauce, so made a quick trip to the Spar around the corner. I can’t begin to explain just how normal our day and evening were. I remember walking down the aisle, picking out the chocolate sauce and looking at my kids running ahead of me with such gratitude. My soul was full – in that moment, everything was just as it should be. We were healthy, life was working out, I had just started my new job, my kids were thriving. For the first time in what felt like forever, life was good and we were emerging from what was a very tough season.
We got home from Spar and decided to do a quick tidy up while we waited for our pizzas to arrive. I was in our bedroom, picking up tiny socks from the bottom of my bed, Axl was carrying toys through to his room, Eli was shouting for Tea (quite typical of him.) and Darren, my husband, was taking dishes to the kitchen. I was just about done in the room, but spotted another rogue sock in the bathroom. I told Eli that I was coming through to the lounge, I just needed to put the socks in the washing basket. I had just bent down when I heard something fall in the kitchen – I listened out for any sound, expecting D to say, “I am okay!” – and then I heard the unfamiliar scream of my child. It’s the kind of scream I can’t describe, it shook me to my core. I dropped everything and before I got through my bedroom door, D started shouting, “HOT WATER! HOT WATER!”
I wasn’t aware that D was trying to help out, by softening the chocolate sauce for our ice-cream we had planned to eat later. He had filled a plastic bowl full of hot water, to allow for the chocolate sauce to soften, and I imagine Eli was on his way to the kitchen to ask for tea, when he saw the chocolate sauce in the bowl, so pulled it down on himself. The bowl had hit him on the head, and the hot water had spilled all over his body.
By the time I got to the kitchen, Darren had gotten Eli’s clothes off. I grabbed him and ran through to my bathroom. Darren ran to the other bathroom and tried running a bath, but I was already in the shower – my clothes all on, standing in a cold shower. I started assessing the damage… his skin was coming off on my hands. I screamed, “we’re going to hospital! His skin is coming off. He is bleeding. We need to go!” At first, Darren didn’t think it was that bad, but as soon as he saw the amount of skin coming off his body, he just grabbed everything, and got us into the car. He was on the phone with his mom, asking her to meet us at the Emergency Doctor, I grabbed my wallet, phone… I had no shoes, no bra… My clothes were still wet from the shower. I ran back and remembered to grab my silk gown, to cover Eli. In my mind, I needed to stop touching his skin, so it would stop coming off, so I wrapped him in my gown, grabbed a new nappy for him and ran to the car.
While this was all going on, I had a five-year old completely freaking out. Axl is sensitive to loud noises, and Eli was… well, as you can imagine… screaming.
I also vaguely remember Mr. D kept trying to call me, but I had dropped my phone on the floor of the car, and couldn’t get it without hurting Eli. We pulled out the driveaway, and started making our way to the emergency room. Axl was blocking his ears and freaking out, D was just focused on getting there, Eli was screaming and I wasn’t processing any of it. All I could think to do was pray. And man, did I pray. The louder he cried, the louder my prayers got. We were on Cape Road, when a Golf tried to slip through as the robot had just turned red, almost hitting into our car.
My world froze.
This is how we die. It was slow-motion. The Golf was going to hit into my door.
I shouted, “Oh God, PLEASE! Keep my family safe!!!” And in the very last second, D gained control of the car and swerved, managing to miss the Golf, and continue on our way.
I don’t remember the rest of the drive to the Emergency Doctor. I know I prayed. A LOT. And that when we pulled into the driveway, people ran out the way, I opened the door of the car and just ran. I am pretty sure the car was still moving and I know I left the door open. I didn’t care. I needed someone to help my son.
A gentleman held the door open, the nurses jumped up and ushered me into a room. I was in a daze. They asked me questions. I knodded and shook my head in response.
“Hot water. It was hot water.”
“I can smell his burning skin. Is he going to be okay? What do I do?”
The nurse was so sympathetic. She spoke softly and calmly, assuring me that he would be okay. Darren and Axl were still not in the room with me. The nurse kept trying to assess the burns, but Eli would just scream louder. They gave him some pain meds, but obviously, he kept refusing them. They got him Burnshield, which I covered my already wet shirt in, so he could lay against me. The doctor came in and confirmed that we needed to go to hospital but they’d make all the arrangements.
We’re not on medical aid.
I had been unemployed for just short of a year. I had just landed a job and was trying to climb out of crippling debt. There was no savings, no cushion, no emergency money, no medical aid.
But I refused to worry. My son needed me.
I called Darren from reception to bring my phone and turned on the Lumineers album. I hushed Eli, danced with him and eventually… the crying stopped. I turned off the light, and swayed in the dark. I still didn’t have it in me to cry, to freak out, to vomit from the worry. I just swayed to the song, and prayed.
Meanwhile, a stranger in the waiting room had taken in Axl. He was holding him and wrapped him up in his jacket. He comforted him and made him feel safe, until his granny came. By the time my mother-in-law arrived, Mercantile hospital had said in order for them to admit us, we’d need R24,000 up front. TWENTY-FOUR THOUSAND RAND – WHO HAS THAT? I could hear everyone talking in reception, the nurse desperately trying to call other hospitals, the doctor trying to reassure my husband, Axl asking if Eli is going to die or if his skin will ever grow back.
Eli was asleep, the nurse and doctor had managed to strap on BurnShield by covering his body in bandages to hold the shields in place. I finally managed to message my parents, and asked them to start a prayer chain. My battery was about to die and I wasn’t able to give much information, because I still didn’t know what was happening. I needed to save the little battery I had to keep playing the music for Eli – it was the only thing that calmed him. Darren walked in. His head fell. “We need R24,000.” Before he could finish his sentence, he was called away. He came back… “A man in the waiting room has offered to pay the R24,000 upfront for us.”
A man – a total stranger – offered to pay my son’s hospital bills upfront. He didn’t just offer. He did it. He EFTed the money right there, the nurses faxed proof of payment and we were ushered back into our car to go to Mercantile. I ran into the hospital, was shown to a private room where they gave Eli stronger meds. The nurses said he’d likely need to be sedated to have his wounds cleaned the following day, and that the bulge on his head from the bowl, would need to be scanned to make sure he didn’t crack his skull but that overall, he would be okay.
My dad arrived with a charger, my sister-in-law arrived with clothes and our family pastor who had just seen our family through the murder of my husband’s uncle, the cancer diagnosis of my father-in-law and the death of my mother-in-law’s mother arrived to pray with us. For the first time, it started sinking in. This was real. This was happening.
The days that followed were long and hard. We spent two days in hospital but were relieved that Eli didn’t need to be sedated, nor did he need to be scanned. The doctors confirmed he had superficial burns and although he was really sore, we could only really give him pain meds and change his dressings every few days. On our last day in hospital, we had to visit the wound sister for the first dressing change.
Having to watch a sister “rip off” bandages from my son’s burned skin, seeing him bleed, while crying “mamma” over and over again, is a memory I will never get over. The more he cried, the more I prayed. The only thing that was going to get me through this was God himself. It’s a memory etched deep within my mind, a memory that makes me cry anytime I give it a thought. The wound sister was cold, heartless, horrible and cruel. She spat out the words, “This is why we sedate them!” As if it was our choice not to – it wasn’t, the doctor said not to. We were only following the doctor’s orders, but were made to feel like we failed, as if the guilt of our child being burnt wasn’t enough.
The care we received wasn’t the best, in general. We only saw a doctor once, they didn’t give Eli meds as often as they were meant to, and the wound sister was one of the worst professionals I had ever encountered. But we were set to leave, well, first we had to speak to a psychologist at the hospital, before they’d sign our release papers. The psychologist spoke to both my husband and I – she assured us that we did everything right. That things happen so fast, another sister chimed in how her own son had suffered 2nd degree oil burns. They pleaded with us not to blame ourselves, to have peace of mind that he will be okay and that he won’t remember the trauma of this entire experience.
We got the sign off and headed home.
I had a friend who I met on Twitter reach out to ask if she can start a crowdfund, my new boss sent Eli a gift and told me to take as much time as I needed, my mother-in-law stayed with us for a week, to look after Axl, would take him out during the day, stock the fridge and did medicine runs. My dad popped in every day after work to make me coffee and see if I was ok. My grandparents came and dedicated both my children, while we sat around on the floor of my bedroom – it was so informal, but it was perfect. I messaged the stranger who paid our bills to thank him, and his response was, “God provides.”
In the days after, I didn’t feel right about going back to the wound sister at the hospital. She charged R6,000 for the first dressing and said the next 3 would be the same price – I’d rather go without food, to pay a better professional to take care of my son. I decided to call around and met a friendly sister at Schuinville pharmacy. The first time we went to her, she spent 2-hours trying to undo the mess that the previous wound sister had done. She had put cotton wool on his wounds, so the wounds had healed with the cotton wool stuck to it, which meant when they removed the bandages, everything just ripped open again. Two hours. It was pure agony. But these sisters were so patient and reassuring. They eventually got him wrapped up with the right stuff. A few days later, they came to our house to check his wounds – you wouldn’t believe the healing. It was incredible!
By the second week, Eli was walking around again. He was still sore, his movement limited but he was able to engage.
Slowly, things started going back to normal, first I would work from my bed, then as he started gaining mobility, I started working from my desk again. Eventually, 3-weeks later, we were able to take his bandages off for good. We still had months of work ahead of us, and he had a massive fear of water, his scars were bad, but he was alive and God said, “Trust me.”
And so I did and continue to.
Looking back, I know without a doubt in mind that my strength and courage came directly from God. That I acted with God’s knowledge. That God kept us safe in the car. That God put those two men in the waiting room; one who comforted and looked after my son when I couldn’t and the other who has a heart so big, he paid the bill of a complete stranger. I know that God is responsible for my son’s remarkable healing, that He connected me with the right wound sister when I needed, and opened the hearts of strangers who took the time to drop off creams for Eli’s scars. Gosh… God’s hand in my life during this period is just SO big, that I can go on to tell you that weeks after, we realized that Darren had left the bath running, when we made our dash to the ER but that the bath never overflowed because by some coincidence, our bath had a leak. Or, how I really didn’t want to spend such a large sum of money on a Paw Patrol Rubbel Teddy for Eli’s birthday, but Darren insisted and for some reason, that was the only thing that provided comfort to Eli while in the hospital. Small things like the fact that Darren happened to get petrol earlier that day, meant that we got to the hospital when we needed to. SO. MANY. THINGS. Happened, because of God.
God is Good.. So… Soo.. Good.
I made a commitment that I would spend the rest of my life sharing that message and shortly after, launched Cup of Faith. Cup of Faith is a South African online network for Christian women. Our platform is designed to share, inspire and encourage fellow Christian women through podcasts, blog posts, community reading plans, product reviews and much more! Quite frankly, I have no clue what I am doing, try to start an online ministry, but God is on the move and continues to wow me, as He leads me on this exciting new path. While I am based in Port Elizabeth, I have contributors based throughout the country and beyond, with some based in North Africa, Canada, and England – I wanted to create a platform featuring women and their real-life stories but could literally count on my one hand how many women I personally knew, who would want to share their stories… Well… I trusted God, and now we’re a thriving community of women from all ages and walks of life. We have new content being posted almost daily that tackles all sorts of topics that vary from mental health, discovering faith, marriage, parenting, addiction, to posts with helpful Bible resources, weekly freebies and printables. We also have a podcast hosted by myself, an online book club, prayer request, and social media accounts that aim to encourage our followers with daily devotionals and updates from the rest of our network. You can find us at: https://cupoffaith.co.za/