Kieran’s story

Article from 2019/2020 Impact of Giving Annual Report

Three years ago, just weeks before Kieran was due to celebrate his sixth birthday, the unthinkable happened. The morning had started off like many others, helping his mum, Tania, cook porridge on their gas stove. But after leaning over too close to the flames, Kieran’s pyjamas caught fire.

Panicked and screaming, Kieran ran down the hallway, in the opposite direction from Tania. Luckily, he ran straight into the ensuite bathroom where Tania got him to stop, drop and roll and, after removing his pyjamas, which thankfully had not stuck to his skin, put him under a cold shower until first responders and paramedics arrived.

“By the time I caught him he was in my bathroom and I grabbed him, rolled him on the ground, put the flames out and held him under a cold shower,” said Tania.

“He was screaming the whole time; at that point the cold shower was upsetting him more than the burn.”

Tania, who is a first responder with Ambulance Victoria, said the adrenalin and her first aid experience instantly kicked in.

“I knew the first responders would get there first, I knew what they had on board so I was already thinking once they arrive, I need a certain blue bag, I need certain medication; my medical training just kicked in.”

Within two hours, Kieran was being airlifted to the RCH. Once there he was taken to the Emergency Department where he had his wound cleaned and bandaged.

“I still remember when we got to the Emergency Department, one of the nurses asked the doctor whether they needed to cool it more. The doctor said it was fine, it’s cool enough, mum has done a great job. And I thought, ‘phew, my training worked’ – getting Kieran straight into the shower and cold water really paid off.”

Kieran was then assessed in the Burns Unit; he had sustained a burn on his abdomen that ran from underneath his right arm down to his hip. They were told Kieran would most likely require surgery and skin grafts but doctors wanted to see how much the skin would heal first.

“We left the hospital later that day and drove three hours home, it was a very big day. It was really surreal; one minute we are cooking porridge, the next minute we are at the RCH, and then we are going home again with lots of pain relief,” said Tania.

Two weeks later Kieran underwent skin graft surgery, where the highly skilled team of plastic, general and trauma surgeons removed healthy skin from his thigh to cover the burn site. One week after that, another surgery followed where surgeons removed a specialised suction bandage which was in place to help the skin graft heal.

“The worst day of all was following the second lot of surgery, Kieran just didn’t come out as well as the first. I was so happy my husband Mark was with us, as Kieran just screamed the whole way home,” said Tania.

“At one point on the trip home we stopped for dinner and Mark rocked Kieran the whole time while I ate, he was in so much pain, and as a six year old you don’t know what to do other than just cry and scream.”

Tania and Kieran travelled from their farmyard property just outside of Warrnambool to the RCH regularly over the next 18 months; firstly, to get Kieran’s burn dressings changed, then for him to wear a custom made pressure garment, which he wore for 23 hours a day for 10 months. The garment was to help control scarring and to improve the look of his injured skin.

“The changing of the dressings was the most traumatic – he would sometimes scream the whole time and even all the way home – or he would fall asleep from exhaustion. Once we got to the compression garment, it was smooth sailing. Sometimes Kieran complained about it being hot, but he didn’t think twice about it other than on hot days,” said Tania.

The staff at the RCH and the care they provided was pivotal in calming Kieran’s anxiety leading up to those dreaded dressing changes, said Tania.

“We saw the same doctors and physiotherapist every time we visited the RCH, which was great. Especially with kids it’s essential, and it made the visits for Kieran much less stressful, knowing who we would be seeing and what was going to happen when we got there.”

“The RCH was amazing, from the surgeons to the clown doctors, everyone was so great with kids – they just keep it at their level, nothing is complicated. When Kieran had to have needles, they would put numbing gel on his hand and they would call it ‘bird poo from the roof of the RCH,’ they’d try to make as many things as possible fun and light-hearted.”