My CHEO Story: Mommy’s Kiss Couldn’t Make it Better

My next post was supposed to be about my “Week as a Stay-at-home Mom”, but then the unexpected happened.  In June, I was at a spa in Stittsville, sitting down with a hot cup of coffee and an old magazine to relax before getting my hair cut.  Now, I am not a spa regular – I don’t have time for weekly mani-pedis, although that would be awesome, of course. This was my first visit in a long time and the first time I’d cut my hair in a year.  So, I was really looking forward to some “pampering”.  It didn’t bother me that my appointment was for 8:30 a.m.  My girl Mary gets up at 5:30 a.m.

At 8:15 a.m., I saw my husband’s name flashed across my phone as it buzzed.  I considered ignoring the call, thinking it might be a message to stop at the grocery store on my way home. But something inside me told me to pick the phone up.  What I heard was,

“Get home, NOW, NOW, NOW!” And that was all.

I threw my spa flip flops in the entry closet area, called out something about an emergency to the receptionist and was in my car and on my way home in minutes.  The message itself was startling, but of more concern to me was what I didn’t hear.  I didn’t hear my daughter in the background calling out to me over her father’s voice.  I didn’t hear her singing or giggling.  I didn’t hear anything.  I drove home in what I guess could be called quiet dread. I just remember being so focused on getting home. Luckily the drive was short.

When I ran in the door, my husband had our daughter wrapped in a blanket and the silence was unbearable.  I grabbed her out of his arms and lifted the blanket from her face to check her breathing — thinking that she had fallen off the bed or had been drowning in the tub.  When I saw her face, I couldn’t believe, or even fathom, what I was seeing.  The left side of her face across her eye had been burned and the skin was peeling away.  As she looked up at me with terrified eyes, she stayed mute. No tears, no crying.  I didn’t know if this was a good sign, or a very bad one.

“What happened? What time will the ambulance be here?” I asked my husband as calmly as possible.

“It was an accident…I was ironing, I had already unplugged it…it fell on her…” My husband, I realized, who I always counted on to be the sane and rational one, was in shock and panicking.

“It’s okay, it’s okay…what time will the ambulance be here?” I asked.

“Do you think we need an ambulance? Do you think maybe we should just take her to a clinic?”

When my husband asked me that, I knew he wasn’t in a place to be making decisions. I asked him to call 911 immediately, and miraculously they arrived within minutes. In that time, he brought me another cloth to cool her face.  When the paramedics arrived, they confirmed my instincts. Mary had to go to CHEO.  Once in the ambulance, the paramedic began to work right away to address her burns – at least second degree according to his assessment. He kept me calm as I fumbled in my purse for her health card. Mary remained quiet.

On our arrival, we were brought by nurses into a closed waiting room. They immediately began taking care of the dressings for her arms. After the iron fell on her face, it had rolled down her arms and they had blistered. The nurses couldn’t believe how well-behaved Mary was being.

“Is it a worry for you that she’s so quiet?” I asked the friendly man changing her bandages.

“No! … she’s fine. We usually only hear crying! This is a nice change.” The nurses gave Mary some medicine. Amazingly, she fell asleep not long after, despite the hustle and bustle of the hospital right outside the door.

“What about her face?” I asked, panicked that they seemed more concerned about her arms at the moment.

“Not to worry, the doctor will be here soon. I can’t believe she fell asleep!” He smiled as he left the room.

Soon, a young doctor came in and inspected Mary. He took pictures of her face and sent them to another doctor. He wanted the plastic surgeon with more experience to see her.

As Mary slept, mommy panicked. The minutes ticked by waiting for the second doctor, and mommy panicked more.

When the plastic surgeon came in, she was an older woman with a gentle air about her. She eased my worries and convinced me that though she had only seen one other similar case – that she could help us.

And that was enough for me. That if I could do nothing for my daughter in this situation, at least I could find the person that could help her. I knew that Mommy’s kiss couldn’t make it better this time. And that we’d have quite the road ahead of us.

But meeting Dr. Duncan at CHEO that day gave me hope.

Samantha lives in Stittsville with her husband, Jon, and their daughter, Mary. Samantha works full-time for the federal government and also enjoys writing part-time. She is a contributing writer for Ottawa Parenting Times Magazine and Ottawa West End Living.