On Saturday, November 5, 2016 our lives were changed forever when a stray flare from a firework went off course and became stuck in our four year old’s scarf before exploding.
As a family we had discussed going to an organised display but had decided against it for various reasons. My husband had taken our son into our local town for a haircut that afternoon and came home with a small box of fireworks – silent ones that could be done in the garden and wouldn’t scare the livestock on our farm. The kids and my mum stood about 15 metres away from where my husband was planning to set them off, I stood slightly to the left of them to film what was happening.
I filmed each flare as they went up, one, two, three, four, pause… on the film you can hear my mum say “anymore?”, with that the remaining flare exploded in the ground and instead of travelling upwards shot horizontally towards the children. From the screaming it was immediately apparent to me that something was seriously wrong. The flare had become lodged in Maisie’s scarf prior to exploding, setting her scarf alight in the process.
The proceeding minutes are somewhat of a blur. Having been a police officer for ten years I always assumed I was pretty good in most chaotic situations, however when it is your own child involved everything you think you know or think you should be doing goes out the window. I recall my husband, Jake, picking up the bucket of water he had next to the fireworks and throwing it over Maisie. My mum was pulling her scarf and coat off her, our other children Scarlett and Dylan were screaming. My mum shouted at me to go and get the burns kit from the barn. We quite often have bonfires/open fires/BBQ’s on the farm and so keep a comprehensive first aid supply. By the time I had returned with it Jake and mum had taken Maisie into the living room. Someone had wrapped a wet towel around her head and neck, she wasn’t crying, she wasn’t screaming, she was entirely silent.
I called 999 and I will always remember the operator saying to me “Is that her screaming? That is a good sign”, to which I had to reply that it was her sister.
The ambulance arrived quickly, within 10-15 minutes, and the paramedics immediately administered pain relief. They almost immediately said that she would need to go to hospital, I recall looking at her injuries as they removed the dressings and thinking they don’t look that bad, in my head I was envisaging an overnight stay at our local children’s ward. I travelled with Maisie in the ambulance and Jake followed behind in our car. On arrival at our local hospital she was seen very quickly by a consultant. He told us that her burns looked in part to be full thickness (meaning that no layers of skin remained) and that she would need to be transferred to the specialist burns unit at Bristol Children’s Hospital. The next 8 days would be the worst of our lives to date.
It was almost 1am by the time we arrived at the unit. Maisie was quickly assessed and the staff were amazing at keeping her pain relief topped up. It was decided that they would wait until the morning before beginning any treatment as she was so exhausted. That night I lay awake next to her quietly sobbing all night, she thankfully slept like a baby. The following morning Jake and I got our first taste of how truly horrific burn injuries and their treatment is. In order to promote blood flow there is a process of ‘scrubbing’ the burns. This is as horrific as it sounds. It took two nurses and her Dad to hold her down in the bath for this to be done every time. I have never in my life heard screams of pain like it. Over the next 8 days Maisie went through a cycle of being in and out of theatre for skin grafts, she had almost all the skin from her left thigh removed to facilitate this, having her burns scrubbed and crying that she wanted to go home. Around about day three or four she developed a seriously high temperature overnight, myself and Maisie’s doctor tried in vain to obtain blood from her in the early hours of the morning before it was decided to be too high risk and she was rushed back into theatre to have more burnt tissue cut away. The medical team were always very clear to us that her burns wouldn’t kill her but that an infection could.
When we were discharged back to our home Maisie was still seen every other day by the nursing team to have her burns cleaned and dressings changed. She used to hide wherever she could if she heard them coming, everything was still so painful. She didn’t return to school until over two months following the incident, and continued to wear pressure garments for almost a year. We continued to travel to Bristol for monthly checks until September 2017, where her recovery was deemed such that she would be seen as and when we felt it necessary.
The care she has received from the operator on that 999 call to the cleaner that used to rearrange her teddies in her hospital room to make her laugh, to every doctor, plastic surgeon, nurse, play therapist, care assistant and physiotherapist, has been second to none and we are forever grateful to the NHS.
This could have happened to anyone. Maisie’s dad took every precaution with those fireworks and one stray flare has had devastating consequences. Everyone has a story about a back garden firework that has gone the wrong way, most people end up with some scorched flowers, we have a little girl who’s scarred for life, please don’t risk it.
Posted: 11/2/2018 2:11:11 PM