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Alayla’s story – burned by a hot drink

Simona and Alayla
Simona and Alayla

On 15th  of August 2023, we celebrated our daughter’s first birthday. Little did we know that the next day would be the most horrific day of our lives.

Alayla woke up as usual at 7:30am in the morning. After spending half an hour on the sofa watching TV, we made our way to the kitchen at 8am to make breakfast. I made Alayla’s porridge, put bread in the toaster, and made myself a cup of coffee. I normally have an iced coffee, but on that day I had ran out of milk, so I used a sachet to make myself a caramel hot coffee instead.

I placed these in the middle of the counter and gave Alayla some wooden spoons to play on the floor with while I walked 10 steps to turn on the TV, which is in the same room.

As I was turning on the TV, I heard a loud bang and the most horrific scream. I turned around and saw Alayla on the floor. I ran back to her and saw that the coffee had fallen on top of her. Without panic or hesitation, I removed all her clothes, including her nappy, ran to the shower located downstairs, put the shower on cold, and held her under the water as I was screaming for help, for my husband to wake up.

My husband woke up to the sound of my screams and Alayla crying. I told him we needed to go to the hospital now. He got dressed and got in the car. I took a towel put it over me and Alayla and held her in the car. What seemed like a 30-minute car ride with Alayla screaming in my arms was only a quick and short seven minutes.

On the way to the hospital, I phoned my mum, who was staying at my grandma’s house, who lived next to Luton and Dunstable hospital. My mum immediately made her way there and alerted the staff that there was a baby coming in with burns on their head and face.

When we got to the hospital, there was traffic, so I ran with Alayla across the street into the hospital and into the children’s department. Unfortunately, we had to wait for a doctor for around a 20-minutes. Alayla was still in pain and screaming.

They gave her some pain relief, and the doctors examined her. They peeled off her skin, and she fell asleep due to the pain relief.  Another doctor then came to examine her eyes, which was extremely distressing as they had to touch the burn areas with gloves whilst she was in pain and screaming.

They took pictures to send to the Specialist Burns Unit in Chelmsford. After an hour, we received a reply that Chelmsford would like to see her due to the burns being on her face. We had the option of taking an ambulance or we could make our own way there. We decided to go home, pack our bags, and make our own way to the Burns Unit at Broomfield  Hospital, Chelmsford which took us about 2 hours.

Image above: Alayla on the day of the burn at the Burns Unit 16/08/2023

As soon as we got to the burns unit the staff saw Alayla immediately and took care of her with such care and responsibility.

The first thing they did was shave her hair. This was a shock to me as it turns out that the majority of her burn were actually on top of her head. After her hair was shaved off, the burns were washed, all the loose skin was removed and then she had bandages put over the burns.

On the morning of the 17th, one of her eyes had completely shut due to the swelling and she was only able to see through her right eye. She still had extremely high energy and was playing with all of the toys with the nurses, enjoying the interactive lights, and we took her on regular walks around the hospital.

On the morning of the 18th, both eyes were fully closed and they were so swollen that she was unable to see. Her wound was also oozing yellow liquid, and it was time to get her bandages redone.   The only thing that we could see was a little square in her face as everything else was covered in bandages. Her eyes were totally closed, and she could not see a single thing. This is the scariest thing that I’ve ever had to go through as my baby was not able to see me, and I was not able to see her beautiful eyes.

The nurses gave us musical toys, and we did a lot of sensory activities, making sure we were always holding her, cuddling her, making sure that she could always feel us, so she wasn’t alone. We played music from  her favorite cartoons.

A therapy dog came to see all of the children. Although Alayla couldn’t see, she knew that the dog was there as she could feel the dog and was getting so excited. They gave us some dog treats so that she could feed the dog, and this honestly lifted her spirits so much. She even managed to see through a tiny gap in the swelling.

On the 19th  things started to get worse, and her eyes were still so swollen and the tiny gap had closed.  All she did was lay in bed and sleep. We weren’t sure when she was awake, when she was napping, when she was tired, and she couldn’t communicate with us, and she was very scared as she could not see a single thing. In the evening, we took her into the treatment room where they had lots of different lights again to see if she could see anything through the tiny gap. She saw some of the lights and was excited and then played for the rest of the evening.

On the 20th she managed to open both of her eyes halfway, although her vision was not 100%, I could see her again and she could see me. It was the most heartwarming feeling being able to see her eyes again. She would come very close to my face to make out that it was me and her dad. She was able to play with toys and had them very close to her face so that she could see them properly.

On the 21st  Alayla had her bandage changed, and when this was done, the progress looked amazing; however, she spiked a temperature, and it was confirmed that she had an infection. She had to be given antibiotics and was put on a drip to help with her fluid intake.

On the 22nd, like magic, Alayla woke up in the morning, her eyes were fully open. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. We went to the play garden outside, and she was able to run around and play with all of the new exciting toys. Unfortunately, she was still on antibiotics and had to be on the drip. However, tomorrow would be the day they decided if we could go home or not.

On the 23rd , as Alayla didn’t have a temperature, we were given the all-clear to go home at 11:30 am. We were in the car driving back home with our beautiful daughter, a packet of medication, and a lot of knowledge on what we needed to do next, which involved cleaning her skin 2 to 3 times a day and various other different treatments.

When we arrived home, my best friend decorated the house with a welcome home sign and lots of balloons. On the 26th , we had a follow-up appointment at the burns unit in  Chelmsford , so we made our way there and Alayla’s progress was amazing, and they were happy with the care that we were providing at home.

That weekend was Alayla‘s original birthday party date, so all of her family and friends were there celebrating her being at home, although we didn’t celebrate her birthday, Alayla was spoilt with gifts, toys, and everyone she loved around her.

On the 1st  of September, we had another follow-up appointment, and again the progress was looking amazing, and we were referred to the therapists instead of having to see the nurses and doctors.

Later that month, Alayla had a bunny-themed birthday party with her friends and family. We had a soft play for the children, goody bags, chocolate fountains, bunny-shaped sandwiches, Piñata, and had the best time celebrating Alayla.

On the 27th of October, the therapist saw Alayla, gave us aftercare advice on what to do during the summer, and as they were extremely happy with her progress  said that all we needed to do was send them an update photo in one month’s time and then Alayla would be discharged.

When she was discharged from the hospital after our seven-night stay, I felt so alone, and I wanted to do something about it, so I looked online. I looked on TikTok and Instagram to see if this had happened to other families. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that’s spoken about at all and once I started reading into it and finding out that 30 children every single day go to hospital with burns from hot drinks, I knew I had to do something.

Image above: Alayla recovering after her discharge.

I started raising awareness on my TikTok and Instagram. My videos reached over 10 million people and we were featured on BBC News, ITV News the front cover of our local newspaper, we also spoke on radio shows and even managed to raise £750 for the childrens burn ward. With this money we bought a toaster, kettle,and microwave for the parents room and toys, a play kitchen, activities and so much more for the children on the ward.

I will continue telling our story and I will continue raising awareness about infant burns to prevent this nightmare from happening to anyone else.

Although Alayla is small and won’t remember, as parents we will always remember the horrific screams, and having to hold her still to have her face burns washed – this will always stay with us and it’s something that I don’t want another parent to experience. This is why I will keep using my platform to raise awareness and if possible keep raising money for the amazing nurses, doctors and hospital who treated Alayla.

Simona is keen to raise awareness of the dangers of hot drinks and how accidents can happen in an instant. If you would like to know the best course of action in the event of an accident, read more on our First Aid page.

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