October 31, 2012:
Our neighborhood fireworks display was about to go off, just like every other year. They’re always a great end to trick-or-treats with the family, but this year, however, was very different. The box of fireworks unexpectedly tipped over and shot into our crowd of neighbours and friends. They sprayed the crowd with alarming sparks, causing people to run for cover behind vehicles and other shelters. Some felt the heat but none were burned. Then a second blast hit and had people blocking themselves with their umbrellas. The fireworks flashed past them, hit a fence and bounced back, burning their coats. A final batch of them shot straight toward Hope, my 7 year old daughter and 2 of her friends, who were sitting on the sidewalk watching the display. The disaster happened before a blink of an eye. 5 year old Jamie’s coat caught fire but his quick-thinking father rolled him to the ground and smothered the flame. Hope caught fire between the inside of her arm and her body and the flames burnt through her clothing and melted into her skin. She was screaming and took off running! No one could get to her quick enough. By the time another dad caught up to her and ripped the 3 layers of clothing off her torso …she had 2nd and 3rd degree burns.
We arrived at Royal Columbian Hospital within 15 minutes from the impact. The pain of a severe burn is unimaginable until you hear the shrieks of agony from one of its victims. Hope’s right side and under her arm burnt so severely that the ER doctor decided that a plastic surgeon was required. They gave her a shot of morphine which didn’t help the pain so they sprayed liquid silver on her. According to Hope, “it stung like crazy”, but eventually it numbed the areas and they were able to work on her. They wrapped her up and booked the plastic surgeon for the next day.
We spent 3 hours of waiting and ripping adhesive off her delicate skin, because we soon discovered that as air hit the burn area it was like feeling fire all over again. Needless to say, Hope spent another hour of screaming while they determined she needed surgery. They wrapped her up again and booked the operation for the following Tuesday. Doctor Dao Nguyen of Port Moody, BC was able to take skin grafts from her side rather than scarring another area of her body. Dr. Nguyen also wrapped Hope’s dolly with bandages in the same areas as Hope’s. The sweet gesture was very appreciated in this devastating time!
Hope was so traumatized from her past experience and feared further pain so the doctors decided she needed to be put under with anesthetics again. Dr. French of White Rock, BC had an amazing child manner and played Hope’s favourite, Justin Beiber, during the procedure. He made me, the terrified mother, feel much better and reassured that she was in good hands. Dr. French said the adhesive was stuck like glue and the second procedure the only way to change her bandages without causing more trauma.
He put me at ease following the surgery by sharing photos he had taken on his iphone, showing that Hope was healing beautifully.
My brave 7 year old had to suffer through 3 weeks of pain. She is healing but it is still a long process. She won’t be allowed direct sunlight for 1.5-2 years and no bathing for a couple months. She has now been allowed quick showers, but still avoiding contact with the affected area.
I now have a clear understanding of why a firework permit is not granted unless you have 30 meters circumference around any display.
Now, almost one year to the day of the accident, Hope is a very strong-willed, feisty little girl. She is in full swing in her sports again and enjoyed plenty of swimming this past summer. She doesn’t mind her scars today and we pray they will never be an insecurity for her. She likes to tell stories when people ask about her burns (as if fireworks hitting her isn’t enough). Our favourite tale of hers is: “I was attacked by a bear – see his claws on my side?”. At least we can have some laughs now but those scars will be a part of her life forever.