November 5th is a date that I cringe to hear or see on the calendar. It literally makes my heart drop when I hear it. November 5, 2015 was the day that Henley burnt her right hand on our glass front fireplace. My tiny, little 10 month old baby girl experienced the worst pain on that day all while I was in the same room just feet away. I’m typing this with a lump in my throat and tear filled eyes because I can picture the whole scene so vividly. Every year I like to share about her story because this is the time of year that temperatures are dropping and people are starting to use their fireplaces, etc. But in reality, I want people to keep this in mind every single day when we do everyday things like curling our hair, cooking, ironing clothes, baking, etc. Once you spend a week in the burn unit at the hospital, your outlook on all things dangerous and hot really changes and your guard is always up. I hope you can read this and develop your own since of burn awareness so that you don’t have to experience what we had to or see the things we had to see during this whole incident.

The Day it Happened

The morning it happened, I was up before anyone else so I decided to drink my coffee and read my devotional in peace. It was super chilly that morning and I remember thinking I could either turn on the heater or turn on the gas fireplace. With it being the first cold morning of the season, I decided to just put the fireplace on because it would be more cozy-which is a decision that still haunts me. Why couldn’t I have just turned on the heater? Slowly the girls started waking up and I went into the kitchen to get Harlyn her cup of milk that she had every morning. It never even crossed my mind that the fireplace was still on. Our kitchen was open to the living room so I was reaching up to get Harlyn her sippy cup and I heard the worst scream come out of Henley. She was only 10 months old so she was just at the age where she was starting to climb up on things. The second I look up, I saw that she had climbed up on the brick hearth of our fireplace and was leaning on the glass front with her right hand. She wasn’t old enough to even have the thought process to take it off, or maybe because she was so little, she didn’t have the balance to take it off. She just stood there with her hand burning until I could get to her.

Immediately I picked her up and screamed for my husband Chad, who was in the back of the house. Luckily it was only around 7am, so he was still home getting ready for work. We were frantic because her hand blistered up so quickly to where it was pretty much unrecognizable, and she could not stop screaming. We instantly ran to the car, loaded everyone in and went straight to the emergency room at the nearest hospital. As soon as we got there and they saw her hand, they rushed us straight back. From there they directed us we go to another hospital that had a burn team on site, so we headed straight there. Seeing your little baby in that much pain is one of the worst things to go through as a parent. They had to give her morphine so that they could peel back the blister to see how bad the burn was. They immediately told us it was 3rd degree and that she would most likely have to have surgery.

Mom Guilt

Let me just enter mom guilt here. I still tear myself up for this. It was totally my fault. Not that I meant for it to happen but in the sense that I should have known better and I should have thought to turn off the fireplace the second the girls woke up that morning. The night it happened I slept on the floor, next to her crib because I couldn’t leave her alone. I laid awake just crying, knowing a little decision I made that day to have the fireplace on caused her so much pain.

As a mom, you are supposed to protect your child from anything that can possibly harm them, and here I was – the reason it happened. Little did I know, that her hand would forever be changed and never look the same. There are times, to this day, that I so badly want to burn my hand just so I would have the same scars she does, so she wouldn’t feel alone. I just want to go back in time to that morning and hit the reset button. It’s been four years now and I still carry that guilt because it’s something that could have been so easily avoided. As a mom you carry so much responsibility to protect your children and keep them safe, and in a way I feel like I failed her.

Mom and daughter - britt horton

Surgeries

Henley had to have her first surgery about a week or so after it happened. This is where they would have to put her under anesthesia and really get a thorough look at the damage. Because it was the palm of her hand the main concern was her losing functionality by the skin contracting as it healed. Having to hand her over to the nurses and watch them wheel her away was the hardest thing for us, as parents. I remember just dropping to my knees in the hospital hallway because she was crying and reaching for me as I had to hand her over and there was nothing I could do about it, knowing this was the best thing for her. It was after the first surgery that we were told she would have to have a second one where skin grafting would take place. They would have to take skin from the scalp of her head and put it on her palm. The thought of having to do another surgery was just unbearable. But we did it, she did it and the doctor and staff were amazing and beside us the entire way. (A huge shout-out to Dr. Freeman and his staff. Because they were, and still are incredible!).

After the second surgery we went straight upstairs to the burn unit where we stayed for almost a week. Let me tell you, the things you see in the burn unit are tough. Other children with burns, adults with burns, hydrotherapy (where you are in a metal, sterile room with water hoses and they have to clean the wounds) and just being cooped up in a hospital room trying to entertain your 10 month old while you have a three year old at home was HARD. We got out the day before Thanksgiving and boy did we have so much to be thankful for. We were finally on the road to recovery and healing.

The Recovery

Henley had to wear a compression glove for about the first year after her accident. We called it her Michael Jackson glove or biker chick glove and it was actually the cutest little thing. I will say, God really gifted Henley with the most special spirit for this exact situation she would have to face. She was so resilient, never complained and only smiled through it all. To this day, if anyone asks about what happened to her hand, she shows it to people and just happily explains that she burnt it on the fireplace and shrugs her shoulders like it’s nothing. And I’m just so proud of her for that. I’m not kidding when I say there really is something special about this little girl. Anyone who meets her, loves her. Her smile is contagious and her spunk for life is infectious!

She will most likely have to have another surgery (or surgeries) in the future as her hand grows and we still go to annual appointments to monitor the progress. As hard as it was to go through and realize that her hand will never look the same, we are so thankful to Jesus that it wasn’t more severe. We really do have so much to be grateful for because it could have been so much worse and the fact that she is a healthy 4 year old with full motion of her hand is such a blessing.

Burn Prevention Tips

burn prevention tips

Like I said in the beginning, I wanted to share our story because I want everyone to be aware of the things you can do to prevent burns from happening to your little ones. 50% of burn accidents this time of year are children. And that is just heartbreaking. You hear different stories from other parents as you’re all sitting in the waiting room waiting to see the doctor, and they are all truly just accidents that seem so easy to avoid but happen all the time. Stories such as a five year old getting a cup of soup out of the microwave without the mom knowing and splashing it over his shoulder and neck having to undergo skin grafting surgery. Or a two year old falling onto hot coals that the parents put on the side of the house never thinking their child could find them. Kids falling into the campfire, grabbing the curling iron cord and pulling it down on them. Or those glass front fireplaces that you wouldn’t think should be allowed to get that hot knowing they could be easily touched, but in reality get to be over 400 degrees. Overall they are all accidents and truly just horrible to watch your child go through.

I now have such a different outlook on everything in the house. Here are just some things we always try to keep in mind:

-If we’re boiling water for pasta, I make sure I tell the kids what I’m doing and make them stand where I can see them when I’m transferring the pot of water to the sink to strain the noodles. I even put Paxton in his highchair before I drain it because little toddlers will sneak up on you so quick. Even if he’s crying and doesn’t want to sit in his highchair, I still put him in there and buckle him up because a crying baby for 3 min is better than him getting burned!

-Always use the back burner on the stove when you can. It’s just such a habit now, but I will always start with the furthest burner on the back when cooking because tiny hands will find a way to creep up when you least expect it.

-When using hot tools such as curling irons or irons, always put the cords up on the counter. Never let them hang down to be pulled on. Once you’re finished, wrap the cord up and push far back on the counter to let cool down. If I plug in a hot tool and have to walk away, I always close the door of the room it’s in and tell the girls something hot is plugged in so don’t open the door for the baby to get in there.

-When taking food out of the microwave always use an oven mitt because you never want to pick up something thinking it won’t be hot then drop it once you realize it’s too hot to hold. (We don’t even have a microwave in the house. But that’s a whole other convo!)

-Stay away from exhaust pipes and always remind your children of that (that happened to a little boy when we were in the burn unit).

-Watch your children around the campfire and draw a boundary around it where the kids cannot cross. It’s so easy for kids to play, lose their balance etc, so having a boundary mark helps.

-Please be cautious and careful with your fireplace in your home. It’s so fun & cozy having a fire in the fireplace, especially this time of year, but please check the glass when you light it. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it could get that hot. My husband researched the model of fireplace we had at the time and it could get up to 400 degrees.  So maybe just check yours to see. We’ve had friends that get equally as hot as ours did and some whose barely gets warm to the touch.

Honestly, you think these things are so obvious, which they are. But the key is always to have it in the back of your mind & to error on the side of caution. I hope this can bring some sort of awareness for you, especially with the weather getting cooler. Even if it can help prevent just one burn.

Burn Prevention Tips - britt horton

Xoxo

Britt

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