First and foremost I want to say thank you for all the love and support and good wishes everyone has sent my way over the past couple weeks. It was very encouraging to hear all of your comments from my blog and on facebook and email…Aaron and my nephew Rod tried their best to read all the comments to me every day. Some of you I haven’t heard from in over 15 years…thanks for taking the time to show that you care, and others (my co-workers) I totally appreciate you taking the time to post on my blog. I do realize of course that you probably just had much more time on your hands since missing my regular daily plethora of emails!
In many ways it feels like this whole ordeal has been much shorter than two weeks, and since I was heavily sedated for most of it, it really didn’t hit me until I got home that it is already the end of the month!!! It’s hard to believe how quickly life can change!
I’m pretty sure everyone is very curious how the accident actually happened, so I figured I’d do some physio on my hands and try to type it up for you all!
Thursday, June 11th I came home from work to find my boyfriend Aaron prepping dinner for us when I walked thru the door. The boy should have been a chef…he loves to cook, and I love to eat…so we get along very, very well! J He hadn’t started the BBQ just yet, so being the fabulously, wonderful girlfriend that I am (or just plain hungry) I offered to go start the BBQ for him. Our landlord left a charcoal bbq on the patio, so we had been using that almost every night to cook dinner.
I lit the charcoal using lighter fluid as per usual, and went back inside, helped with the salad and then let the cat outside. I was keeping a close eye on Gizmo (the cat) because it was one of his first trips outdoors and I was nervous about him getting lost or running away. I checked the bbq and realized that it hadn’t caught and I would have to light it again. I was annoyed because I had just run out of lighter fluid and would have to go to the store to get some more in order to get the charcoal burning again.
….that was until I saw the little lawnmower gas tank.
I knew I would have to be really careful, so I poured a couple tablespoons of gas into a small yogurt container, thinking this would minimize the chance of a large fire. I drizzled a little bit of it around the edges of the coals, and since nothing caught I was pretty confident that all the embers were out. I glanced over at the cat inspecting the back yard, called to him to get his attention so he wouldn’t hop the fence, and casually tossed the rest of the container of gas onto the heap of charcoal.
Suddenly I was engulfed in a huge ball of fire. Since my hair was long and I was wearing it down, it instantly caught fire on my left side. Let me tell you, the sound of hair burning is the worst thing you can hear! I started pounding at the fire with my hands, I don’t remember screaming, but according to the neighbours they heard me. Within a couple seconds I realized I couldn’t get it out on my own so I ran thru the back door yelling for Aaron…he was way inside in the kitchen and the first scream he just thought I was calling the cat or something…the second scream he realized something was really wrong and came running full bore… He burst thru the door into the laundry room where I was now trying to get the laundry room sink running…the skin on my hands was already peeling away like a rubber glove.
I remember seeing him burst through the door and all the blood drain from his face and then instantly he ran up to me and tackled me to the floor…rolling me around and beating out the fire on my hands and head. He says that every time he put out a spot and went to the next it seemed like the first spot would flare up again. Weirdly enough though, he walked away with only singes to his arm hair.
I was freaking out because I was sure the house was on fire as well, so I made him go out to take care of that…and I somehow got the laundry sink running and filled a tiny container with water and ran out to help (um, not sure what that would have accomplished…but hey, it’s the thought that counts right?). Thankfully the only thing burning was a lawn chair, nothing else caught fire!
Aaron came back in and rushed me upstairs into the tub and tried to get cold water on me….it hurt so bad I couldn’t stand it, so as soon as he left to go back downstairs to call 911 I got out of the tub and headed back down there too.
A whole bunch of neighbours had heard the screams and were now in the back yard and had already called 911. Aaron was freaking out, shaking and just looking at me going ‘OMG, OMG!!!’. I told him very strictly to stop looking at me, and to get my purse and phone, pack me a bag, phone my sister and boss and get on the phone with his mom. I was even still worried about the cat getting back inside. One of the neighbour ladies forced me to sit down on the steps because I was going into shock and my body had begun shaking uncontrollably.
Finally I heard the sirens…apparently it was only about 10 mins from the very start…but it seemed like a lifetime to me!!! I couldn’t wait for the firefighters/paramedics to get into the backyard, so I walked around to the front and sat on the sidewalk. The sun was out in full force and sitting in the sun was agony, it felt like everything was still on fire. When the firefighters got there they instantly had about four guys start pouring saline solution over my face, neck and hands. It was instant relief....but only as long as there was a constant stream of saline…. I could hear them saying that they were running out of saline, and that freaked me out, so I just kept asking them for morphine.
Finally the ambulance got there; they all started discussing how they would get me up onto the stretcher. This was really annoying me because every second wasted was a second away from my blessed morphine…so I just stood up and went and sat down on the stretcher for them.
Apparently the news crew arrived at the same time as the ambulance, so Aaron tried to block their view of me as best possible, but they must have got some footage because apparently it was on the TV news and in the newspaper for a couple days.
When they got me into the ambulance, they finally decided to give me a shot of something to help with the pain…but I kept telling them it wasn’t enough and they needed to give me more. By the time I got to the hospital (only a few mins away) they had already given me several shots, but I was still very awake and still shaking with pain and shock.
I was still pretty coherent when I got into the hospital, they asked me all the usual questions…age/date etc etc… and I had a brief chance to talk to Aaron and his mom Karen (she actually beat Aaron to the hospital as he had to stay back at the house to deal with the police and fire department). I was so relieved that she was there to be with him, because he was still shaking and just saying ‘OMG, OMG’..
I remember them asking me if they could cut off my shirt and bra and I looked around and saw all the paramedics and hospital staff standing there and thought that it was abit humorous that half of Kamloops would see me topless. I didn’t find out until later that several of the paramedics actually play hockey on Aaron’s Sunday night team…so it will definitely be interesting meeting any of them in the future! J One of the paramedics was in tears after bringing me in…so Aaron knew it was pretty serious.
Finally they gave me general anaesthesia because they had given me as much morphine as they could, and I still wouldn’t go to sleep. All of Aaron’s family came down to be with him in the Kamloops hospital waiting room for the next 4 hrs or so, and it was a long time until they knew anything. One of the paramedics was in tears after bringing me in…so Aaron knew it was pretty serious. Finally the social worker went in and reported that ‘yes’ I would live, but that they would need to MedEvac me to Vancouver General Hospital that night to ICU and the burn and trauma center.
My childhood friend Shelley drove to the hospital in Vancouver that night after getting the call from my brother (thanks to facebook and google he somehow managed to track her down) and she sat with me the entire night….I don’t remember it, but am so grateful to have such an amazing friend!
The dr’s told Aaron and my family that I probably wouldn’t wake up for a few days because they wanted to keep me out because of the pain, but being the stubborn person that I am, I woke up early the next morning for a few minutes. It was weird, because even though it felt like a dream, I knew exactly what had happened and where I was. I couldn’t talk because of the breathing tubes, so I managed to sign ‘AARON’ into the air to the ICU nurse, and she assured me that he was on his way into town from Kamloops.
My brother’s Ken and Richard and my nephew Rod came in, and Aaron and his stepdad Cam arrived from Kamloops. They only let a couple of people in at a time…and I thought it was cute when the nurses told me later that that when I heard Aaron’s voice outside the ICU door, my heart rate skyrocketed. What can I say…he’s a pretty special guy!
Everything from that point on is a big blur from the morphine (thank you SOOOO much Freidrich Wilhelm Adam Serturner)…they had me hooked up to a whole bunch of machines so I wasn’t able to speak and therefore was stuck signing everything in the air…
I know the story of me asking for my iPhone was already posted…but in my defence, I remember thinking that if I could just type on my iPhone I wouldn’t have to sign every freaking word in the air like a bandaged monkey playing charades, and have people try to figure out what I was trying to say. Apparently I neglected to factor in that I could barely see from under the bandages, plus that my hands were completely covered and I needed fingertips to type on the phone. I guess my brother got quite the evil eye from me when he tried to point out the latter… ;)
I went into surgery on Monday, and they tried to put the breathing tubes back in while I was still semi-awake. They had removed the previous tubes on Saturday after sending a camera down there to ensure that there was no fire/smoke damage to throat and lungs. Talk about a nightmare…they had to try about 5 times to get it in, and I remember every second of it…still don’t know why they didn’t just wait till I was completely under to save me the extra trauma…just weird!!!
I woke up from surgery and as soon as I got back to the room I called my brother…his is the only local number I knew by heart, and I couldn’t call Aaron’s cell because it was long distance from the hospital. I just wanted someone to know I had made it thru the surgery ok.
The nurses in the burn and trauma unit were fabulous…it takes a special breed to work there. It’s a very humbling experience to be completely reliant on someone else for every bodily function you have. They had such patience and were so compassionate to a stranger, I will be eternally grateful to them for that.
Aaron was by my side the whole way…he took two weeks off of work to stay in Vancouver so he could be with me every day. They had promised him a bed in my room, but it turned out they didn’t have enough space, which was probably a blessing in disguise for me in the long run (he snores like a freight train, and there is no way I could wear earplugs in my poor melted ears!)
He sat with me through numerous dressing changes…each and every one were VERY painful…the first one on my right hand lasted 3 hours, and he sat there the entire time squeezing my leg and helping me breathe through the pain. What a trooper! The second dressing change only lasted 2 hours, but he was there for me again, and I credit him for getting me through it.
I had SOOOOO many visitors! Thanks to each and every one of you who came to the hospital to see me…some I can barely remember because I was so drugged up, but I still appreciate it so much! Last Sunday I had almost 10 people in my room…we were partying it up big time…I’m so glad the nurses liked me so much, as I found out later there was actually a limit of 2 visitors per room! Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to receive flowers…but I heard they were beautiful! I got an awesome fruit basket from my oldest brother, and that came in handy because I just couldn’t handle the hospital food.
My dad and sister Winni flew in to see me Sat – Tues. They were such a support…I think Winni was a nurse in her past life…she was so amazing! My dad sat with me as they removed the 150+ staples in my hand on Monday. I had the use of my left hand back at that point and I was surprised I didn’t squeeze his 80 year old hand right off. Aaron came in again half way through that and sat with us, helping me focus on deep breathing again to get thru it. The nurses wanted to stop after awhile because it was so painful for me, but I wouldn’t let them because I just wanted it to be over and done with. I was really lucky that the grafting on my hand and neck were 100% successful so no further surgeries or staple removals are needed!
I made it almost all of the way through this ordeal without shedding a tear. The first time I cried was when Aaron told me that the house I am currently living in had been put up for sale on Saturday and had 3 offers on it and was sold on Monday….meaning I have to be out of my place on Aug 1st. (did someone say we’re in a recession??) It was just too much to handle so I just cried, and Aaron just didn’t know what to do…you know men…they want to fix things…and I actually just wanted to cry for a bit once I got started. Lol…poor boy, he was very confused that I had made it thru all of this pain, and then would cry over having to move.
We had viewed a 2 bedroom condo for the 2nd time at lunch on the day of the accident, and had planned to put an offer in on Friday…of course I hadn’t even thought of any of this until I heard that the house had sold from under me, so once I got control of my silly emotions again, I went into investor mode and started the paperwork to put in an offer. I couldn’t even really sign the first set of paperwork that came through…I don’t even think my signature was legible! Anyhow, the offer was accepted and now I’m just crossing my fingers that everything else goes well for closing the deal on Friday! The one upside to all of this is that this will be the very first time in my life that I will not be able to move myself!!! Aaron has promised to round up a bunch of big strong men and I’ll just sit in my easy chair and be the foreman!!!
I was released on Friday June 26th and we drove home…it felt like the longest drive ever. I can’t have any burned skin exposed to direct sunlight, so I looked like a mummy all wrapped up in the car. I won’t be able to be in the sun for the next 12 – 18 months, and will have to wear tension bandages/gloves on my hands and neck all the time for the next year to minimize scarring. Yuk…that will definitely take some adjustment, but at least I have an excuse not to do dishes for a long time. I've never been a fan of the glove/hat/scarf look...but maybe people will just assume that I'm in mourning, and just paying tribute MJ for the next year!!!
I have included a couple pix…one is pretty graphic…Winni took that pix on the 22nd. She wouldn’t show me the pix at the time so I really had no idea that it looked so bad! I only post it so you can see how rapidly I have healed…it’s almost a bit freaky, but definitely not something I will ever question…I just hope all my family has the same genes, and the same good luck if they ever need it! The other pix was taken on the 28th it looks backwards btw. My left side is almost completely healed…I only have 3 small patches on the right side that still need bandages, plus my ear is still pretty sore and will need some more time to heal completely. My hands are looking great and I’ll post pix of the grafting once the lines have healed a bit more. It’s pretty amazing what they can do with the human body!!!
So now comes lots of physio to recover the flexibility and range of motion in my neck and right hand. My left hand has all of it’s range of motion back because it healed so quickly and didn’t require any grafting so I could start using it again within days of the accident.
Thanks again for all of you love and support…it has been an unforgettable journey that still hasn’t ended completely for us, so please keep us in your thoughts as Aaron and I continue on.
When I was completely drugged one day I told my nephew, ‘Except for getting burnt this has been an awesome experience!’….. lol…
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right??!
Love you all,