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Real family case-study: Sofia’s story

Sofia in hospital

To look at Sofia now you wouldn’t know what she went through almost 2 years ago.  The only sign of it is her significant scarring to her right arm, right leg, right jawline and chest. Here, Sofia’s mum shares their family’s story.

Like many parents we thought “it won’t happen to us”, “we do everything to keep our children safe”. And of course, we do everything we can to keep them safe.

In September 2019, only two days into the new school term, everything changed. I had taken my eldest child swimming and my husband was home. I got a frantic phone call. I can’t explain the feelings I felt as my husband shouted down the phone that Sofia had been using her stool to get the cutlery out of the draw and slipped, at the same moment my husband had pulled the pan forward from the back and looked away. She reached up to steady herself and caught the pan and it toppled over her. It was a split second but that is all it took. He called 999, stripped her off and got her into shower. I went into mum panic mode – called a friend, not sure if it was to support him or Sofia but I knew someone else needed to be there instantly. I called another friend and asked her to have my eldest daughter overnight and take her to school, desperate to try keep things calm for her.

When I got home I sat on a stool in the bathroom holding and still cooling her, it had been about 15 minutes.  The paramedics arrived and took over. They gave her pain relief, put cling film on her burns and called the air ambulance. In the end we were blue lighted to our local A&E at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.  The staff and paramedics were amazing. Sofia had gone quiet by this point, not making a sound but watching everyone.  In that moment I just wanted her to make a sound, any sound. She was too cold – I lay on the bed with her to help warm her up with covers, she was given fluids, pain relief and had the burns initially treated. The staff were amazing and the paramedics didn’t leave us, waiting to find out how we were going to be transferred. They then transferred us to Birmingham Children’s Hospital by road, along with a staff nurse to monitor her. That journey was a blur – tears, phone calls, comforting Sofia who still wasn’t making a sound.

Birmingham Children’s Hospital were amazing. Sofia was seen and taken up to the burns unit.  They tried as best they could to clean her burns but they were too extensive.  She was bandaged, given lots of pain relief and scheduled for surgery the next morning. They estimated about 26% burns to arms, head, legs, chest, face and hand. The next 2 weeks while we were there are a bit of a blur.  Sofia had multiple surgeries to de-bride the burns, multiple skin grafts – some of which took brilliantly, others not so well, her head was shaved, central lines were put in, she was tube-fed to ensure she got maximum calories (burns victims need high calorie intake to help with the healing), lots of pain relief and other medication to help with the itching. My husband and I took turns to be at the hospital with her while looking after our eldest.  Eventually we were given a room at the Ronald Macdonald House. It meant we could have evenings and weekends as a family with our eldest, Cerys. Cerys was a trooper staying with friends, having my mum come look after her and went to school the whole time – we wanted to keep things as normal as we could for her. Sofia was entered into a trial to monitor her healing and the enzymes as she heals. We wanted to help others if they were ever in this situation.

After 2 weeks we were told we could take Sofia home.  The next few months while she continued to heal comprised of visits to the hospital every other day for dressing changes, occupational therapy and physio. When Sofia was finally allowed her first bath – about a month after the accident, she screamed the hospital down. Eventually the burns healed and she was fitted for a compression vest with silicon lining for her arm and chest. We used silicon tape on her face and leg, and eventually a compression sleeve for her leg. We tried multiple creams until we found one that suited.

Almost 2 years down the line Sofia no longer wears her compression garments, we use special moisturising cream twice daily, she has regular reviews with occupational therapy, physio and the consultants – although the pandemic has delayed these slightly. She may need further surgery down the line as the grafts and scars go over some joints. They have mentioned injections and laser as part of her treatment. The thing is, no matter what is thrown at Sofia I know she will cope. As she has done the whole time and as a family we are so much stronger.  The girls are closer, and my husband and I are stronger for something that may have easily torn us apart. 

Sofia starts school in September 2021 – I wasn’t sure we would get here, but we have and I am so proud of her.  I am sure a few tears will be shed when she goes in for her first day! But my brave girl is going to smash it. I can’t thank the paramedics, staff at The Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Birmingham Children’s Hospital Burns Unit enough for the care they gave her. And the Ronald McDonald Charity who housed us and helped us stay a family unit, giving us space to relax, cry and rest away from the ward but close enough to be 2 minutes away.  I can’t thank our friends and family enough either – they supported us, cared for us all and still do now when things are tough.

We want people to understand that these things can happen so easily. It’s a split second, a glance away, not realising how far they can reach. These accidents can happen, but they are that – accidents. If one person learns something from Sofia’s accident, then telling her story is worthwhile.

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A burn injury is for life

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