Walking into the Emergency Department at the Perth Children’s Hospital with their sick two-year-old daughter Amelia, Brianna and Russell felt…
With one jump, Romeo’s life changed forever.
Late last year Romeo and his twin sister Isabelle were enjoying a family visit to Jakarta with their dad, Lochlan and aunt, Kirrianna. Splashing in and out of their hotel pool and having fun like typical three year olds, no-one could have foreseen the tragic events that were about to unfold.
The lift doors opened directly onto the pool deck and Romeo, like he had in previous times, dashed out towards the spa and jumped in. But this time, something was terribly wrong. The spa thermostat was broken and the water was at boiling point. Immersed up to his neck, Romeo immediately started screaming at the top of his lungs.
Acting on instinct, Lochlan grabbed Romeo and threw him into the cool water of the adjoining pool. His aunt, Kirrianna, jumped in after him and held him as gently as she could as he shrieked in excruciating pain. They managed to get him out of the pool and under a shower, trying desperately to prevent a life-threatening burn injury.
Romeo sustained burns to 80% of his tiny body, from the neck down.
His grandmother Katherina explains the anguish of being miles away in Brisbane and feeling helpless. “I just kept wondering how Romeo would survive”, Kathrina said, her voice wavering.
I was told that his whole body was burnt, that he couldn’t stop screaming, that his skin was just falling off. And I couldn’t do anything. My heart has breaking for both my son and my grandson who were so far away. It was terrible having to wait until Lochlan could find the time to make a quick phone call to update me
Romeo’s biggest challenge was infection. The family knew that the best place for Romeo would be at PMH, under the care of Professor Fiona Wood and her amazing team. The made the decision to relocate from Brisbane to Perth permanently so Romeo could receive this world-class care he deserved.
Romeo arrived at the PMH Burns Unit four days after his traumatic accident. For the next two months, he had a family member by his side 24 hours a day, seven days a week. His grandmother, Katherina, once again takes up the story.
“Romeo was never on his own. It meant that we each slept in a hospital recliner chair, but that was fine. The burns team were there with us every step of the way. They explained everything to us, from the battle Romeo had with infection, to the burns and scars and the treatment he was going to receive. No question or concern we had was ever considered too small or too stupid. The burns team’s expertise is so very important. These children would be in a far worse condition and suffer horrendous scarring, without them”.
The fact of the matter is the world class skills of the burns team at PMH saved Romeo’s life, she said.
Romeo spent an extended period of time in bed, unable to move without pain and he had to learn to balance and walk again and lift his arms above his head.
“It was so hard to see Romeo struggle. He didn’t want to get out of bed because he thought it might hurt. We had to work hard with him and his physiotherapist and occupational therapist to get him moving again. The whole process made him very anxious. Even though he cried and begged not to do it, we had to push him,” Katherina explained.
The expertise of Professor Fiona Wood and her team meant that Romeo was able to leave the hospital for day trips over Christmas, only seven weeks after his accident. He was able to celebrate this special time of the year with his family, wearing his custom made superhero compression suit. Shortly after Christmas, Romeo was discharged. He still attends the hospital as an outpatient and will receive medical care for many years to come.
Every six to eight weeks, Romeo receives special laser therapy on his burn injury. The Lumenis Carbon Dioxide Laser was funded by Foundation supporters and has become an integral part of burn treatment at PMH. This equipment helps smooth out raised, lumpy or itchy burn scars and therefore improve day to day movement. It is a relatively simple procedure, allowing Romeo to receive treatment and go home on the same day. It will also eventually reduce the need for compression garments.
Little Romeo faces many more years of treatment for his burn. On-going laser treatment, painful skin grafts, physical therapy and countless outpatient appointments to monitor his progress. Along with counselling which both Romeo and his twin sister Isabelle have been receiving since the traumatic accident.
Further research is central to minimising the damage caused by burn injuries, particularly in children like Romeo who have a lifetime of painful treatment ahead of them. Funding this research is vital as it will enable Professor Wood and her team to discover new and improved ways of healing the devastation of these injuries.
You can help kids like Romeo by making a donation today. Your donation will make a difference.