Originally published in the Herald Sun, Monday 11 April 2022
Words by Brigid O’Connell
Images by Alex Coppel
Adult eyes were diverted for only a moment, and that’s all it took for Joseph Kitete to reach towards the coffee table and pull a mug of tea over himself.
The 15 month old suffered burns to 13 per cent of his body – from head to stomach – in the accident four weeks ago, needing multiple skin grafts.
While paramedics put the toddler in the bath to cool his burns, The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) trauma doctors say many Victorian families are missing this vital first step, which can have major implications for how burns heal long term.
Burns surgeon and director of the RCH trauma service Warwick Teague said burns needed to be cooled with running water for 20 minutes, even before rushing to hospital, to stop further damage.
“Cooling prevents the burn injury that has already happened from becoming larger and deeper,” Dr Teague said.
“The pain, depth of the burn, the likelihood of skin grafts or being left with a scar that interrupts your future; all of these things – which can still occur after first aid – you have the opportunity to limit with cooling.”
Joseph’s mum Esther Bahatie said that from security guards to the surgeons, she had been blessed by tender care at the RCH.
“I couldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else but the RCH,” she said.