Thursday, 26 March 2009

Burning down the house

My sister arrived in JHB yesterday on one of her quarterly trips up here for Childline. I left my course early to fetch her, ended up sitting in traffic for two hours to get to the airport (typically, I hit rush-hour traffic on the way, although at least I saw some new sights since I went via the Edenvale / Kempton Park route for part of the way). Anyway. Sis was delayed by two more hours because her original flight had been cancelled;in the end, she got to me at 19:00 instead of 17:00, as expected. Loaded her into the car and headed home to a delicious meal cooked by MadCat (his roast chicken and veg makes the most satisfying meal ever).

Traffic was fairly light, it was late, we were both tired and hungry, so I made Midnight shake her tailfeathers up the N3. Round about Marlboro - so about 30 minutes later - I got a call from Moosquared: MadCat had burnt his hand and could I get home ASAP. My inital thought was, "Well, if he's burned his hand, why doesn't he just rinse it off and put on some Germolene?"

Then she mentioned the hot chip oil. And suddenly "burned his hand" took on a whole new meaning. I told her to tell him to run cool water over his hand and hold it in a basin of tepid water until we got there. Then Sis phoned him and I told him the same thing. Then Nic phoned again and I told her we were in Rivonia Road.

Yes, it took me less than 10 minutes to get from Marlboro Drive offramp to my house. I didn't know a double-cab could go that fast without overturning around corners.

I didn't wait for anything when we got home. I walked in that bathroom and saw MadCat holding his hand in teh water, and when I looked down, I thought it was just the pressure he was using to hold it down that was making his fingers look so white. Until he moved his hand, and the skin swirled around in the water.

Not pressure. Melted skin.

Thank goodness for three first-aid kits, and my sister. I didn't panic, but I know I was nowhere near as calm as she was. She put on the surgical gloves, she applied the Burnshield dressings, she was the schoolteacher while I handed her things.

MadCat was trying his damndest to be brave and ignore the pain, but I've been burned, badly burned, before, and I can tell you - the minute, the very second you take your hand out of that cool liquid, the second air hits the burn, it is like liquid fire crawling under your skin. It is an agony more intense than anything you have ever experienced. He tried to smile, but all he could manage was a grimace. He was scarily calm, and kept insisting that he wasn't in shock.

Too bad for him we're the daughters of a nurse; a nurse who worked in trauma units more often than not.

We stopped in the kitchen to lock up on the way to the clinic, and that's where I saw the burned linoleum and the fire extinguisher. It wasn't just hot oil; the liquid had exploded. He's lucky to be alive, and we're lucky he wasn't so badly burned that he couldn't put it out.

We loaded him into the car and Sis phoned NHC; no answer. Randburg Medicross no longer has a 24-hour casualty. Olivedale it was. We found out while on Republic, and that's where I started putting Midnight through her paces.I put on my hazards, and then I pretended I was driving a BMW; I crossed intersections at red lights where I could, weaved in and out of traffic, and tried to drive as quickly but as safely as possible to Olivedale. I didn't flash anyone or hoot; but I made it to Olivedale in five minutes down Malibongwe, and that's saying something.

MadCat had a bit of a hissy fit at the very nice male receptionist when he was told he'd have to go through triage; but it's important, and that's when I was able to tell the nurse that he's an epileptic and had had a seizure. And that's where the story came out; that he'd been cooking supper for us, and decided that he wanted potato skins while waiting for us to get home. He'd started the oil. then must have had a seizure and wandered off to the computer room. He came to when he smelled smoke, and went into the kitchen, where he saw the pot smoking. So he put on the gloves and started taking the pot outside and then it ignited.

Thank goodness he has fast reflexes - he closed his eyes in time and his eyelashes (and hair) got singed but no damage to the eye.

That was the scariest thing, for me; looking at those beautiful eyes, those eyes I see last thing before I go to sleep every night, and seeing that the eyelashes have been burned off one side, makes me realise just how big a deal this was. He could have lost an eye. He could have been disfigured. His eyelashes burned, dammit!

We waited what seemed like hours, but was really only 15 minutes, before he was called through. Then I was called through about half an hour later, where a very nice male nurse called Thabo showed me how to keep the bandages moist and told me I'd have to do so for 24 hours until he came back to have his wounds checked. They did up both his arms and his right foot, where the oil had splattered. The doc even wanted to do his face, but fortunately the splatter burns there were very minor and just required some ointment. Then they gave him liquid Tramacet to make him fly, and sent him home.

And Sis finally got her roast chicken.

We've got to do something about these seizures.

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