Thursday, April 21, 2011 started out like any other day since our move to Seattle, except that I was especially happy and excited that it was my last day of work prior to a much anticipated 10-day vacation we were going to be spending with my mom, aunt, uncle, grandmother.
I wrapped up work stuff in the morning and spent the afternoon running errands and getting ready for our guests who would be arriving from Brazil in just a couple of days; by the time I got home, my kids (my daughter Giulia, who was 9 days shy of turning 3 and my son Jack, 7 months old at the time) were home with our nanny playing and getting ready for baths. Both my kids absolutely loved taking baths, particularly in our Seattle rental home, because it had a larger bath tub in the master bathroom and the kids just loved “swimming” in it.
We were all in a great mood, on vacation mode. Our house was loud and happy. Our nanny was still filling up the tub and I went into the tub seat and played with Jack, while we waited for our nanny who was getting Giulia ready to join in. Although the water was still running, I had both my feet in the tub and was holding Jack with both hands. Jack was enthralled with all the bath squeaky toys, laughing and making baby sounds of pure joy and happiness.
When our nanny got back into the bathroom, I handed Jack to her and went downstairs to do some school homework. I sat next to John, my husband, and kept glancing at my daughter, who was playfully going up and down the stairs laughing and trying to get our attention.
What happened next was surreal. My nanny comes down the stairs holding my son wrapped in a towel. She was crying and Jack was moaning. I ran towards them, in complete shock, unable to understand what in the world had just happened to my child. Our nanny tried to explain to me and said that when she turned him around to wash Jack, his skin started to peel off. I took him from her and started to scream and tell my husband that we needed to do something immediately to help our son. So my husband and I acted very fast. We didn’t know the area very well or even if there were hospitals nearby, so we called 911 and took Jack to the nearest fire station. An ambulance was already on standby waiting for us.
The trip to the hospital was a nightmare: paramedics were giving Jack morphine and trying to mitigate his excruciating pain. They kept asking me questions about what had happened to Jack. I sat in that ambulance completely puzzled, unable to explain much. I sobbed the entire time and prayed to God that nothing major or serious had happened to my son. I sat there watching everything but feeling so helpless since I couldn’t do absolutely anything to shield my son from that horrific experience.
We later learned at the hospital that Jack had suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns covering over 40% percent of his body. Unbeknownst to us, the water heater had been set at unsafe temperatures (~+150F) and that exact day, the plumbing system in the tub malfunctioned, causing the cold water to stop flowing in and only allowing scalding hot water to pour in. For just a few seconds, only 150F water poured onto Jack’s legs, but that was enough to irreversibly burn and cause major damage to his infant skin. Jack spent 44 days fighting for his life in the ICU of Harborview Hospital, Burn Center. He had 3 surgeries and had both legs and top of his feet grafted. He had physical therapy and had to re-learn how to sit, crawl and eventually walk. I took a year off to care for my kids and to focus on Jack’s recovery. Jack eventually went back to where he should have been, caught up and eventually hit every milestone in his development.
Although I may not have all the answers now, I know that what happened to our son will eventually make sense. It is just how life works. I am a firm believer that every single thing in life happens for a reason and that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. There were so many blessings and so many learnings during those 44 days, I could write another entry dedicated to just talking about them… But what we do know is that our son is a fighter. His scars tell us all a story of courage and determination, of unquestionable and truly unconditional love and unlimited devotion, of family, and especially, of bonds that will never be broken.
1st day of Kindergarten and his 5th birthday party