Looking back at everything at this past year gave me a chance to refelct on everything that I have been able to experience because I have had the time off. I can’t imagine going through what I went through wihtout the support of all of these people in these pictures and there are quite a few I didn’t have pictures to add to this collage. A lot of where I am today is because on my bad days I had a best friend to text with, a cousin to gripe with, a mom to cheer me on and a boyfriend to hold me close. I am so grateful for everything I have been able to experience this past year, the holidays, the birthdays and just the sweet little moments with people I love. Looking back through all these photos there was always a constant in each, love and happiness. I can’t tell you how many times I had broken down and cried because I wasn’t handling my situation well, but those memories don’t even compare to any of the good that I have experienced. I am so lucky that I was the able to spend time with people I loved. It’ll be a year since my accident, hardest and best year of my life. Thank you to everyone who had reached out or supported me, I love you more than you know. To my best friend, cousin, mom and boyfriend, I love you guys, thank you for being there at my weakest.
It was May 7, 2018. It was around 3:00 PM. I didn’t have to wait as long to get a room in the burn unit, luckily. I was immediately put on antibiotics and told that I probably won’t have surgery until the next day so I should eat something. My mom got me baker’s since it was down the street, my favorite grilled cheese, fries and a chocolate shake. I didn’t know that would be the best meal I would eat over the next few days. She sat with me while I text my boyfriend, he was at work, that I was admitted and having surgery the next day. There is something peaceful when you are in a bad moment in your life and you can see your mom. She wasn’t even doing anything special, she was just there, and it was the best. I met my new nurses, and told them I guess we all need to be friends now cause I’ll be here for a while. I had a new room, no roommate, again. This time I was right in front of the nurses station, I could see and hear a lot of conversations. I feel like this day was the easiest, I did nothing and I had other people that knew what they were doing washing my infected wound. The nurse offered me a shower, she said that because I am having surgery the next day I wouldn’t be having a proper one for while. So, she wheeled me in my bed to the shower room. I didn’t even know what to expect it to look like but I wasn’t expecting that. You know in scary movies where people are taken to a medical room that is completely white, tile and everything, that’s what it reminded me of. They told me they could help me if I needed it. It took a minute for me to remember how awful the shower the night before was, so I put my pride aside and asked for help. Because of how swollen my hand was I couldn’t even get the oversized gown off of me. I felt like I needed to distract them from the task at hand and kept throwing jokes at every way. Even up until the time my nurse was wheeling me back to my room, I dont remember what I was joking about but I remember her stopping the bed because she was about to pee her pants while simultaneously almost running me into a wall. Like I said, that day was easy. My mom left and I was alone, I had my iPad to watch movies on and everyone else’s business on social media to keep me distracted until my boyfriend got there. It was dark and late, and I couldnt sleep. He got there about 10 pm and the night nurse made him a bed on the pull out chair. My boyfriend kissed me goodnight and slept. I watched him, ya, I sound like a creep, but I couldnt help it. I had this growing fear that he would disappear, that he would stop breathing, or that he just wouldnt be there. So, I couldnt sleep. Around three am the nurse came in and told me I really should get some rest, I took her advice, turned in my bed towards the part of the room my boyfriend was sleeping, watched his chest rise up and down and closed my eyes. I woke up to him getting ready to go home and get ready for work. Dammit, I love this man. He told me that he would be in contact with my mom and that the surgery will be just fine and he’ll be back after work. He left, I cried. My mom came in a little while after, then the doctor and the anethesiologist came to tell me about my surgery and as soon as they have the room we are going. I took a breathe. They told me they would be taking skin from my right thigh and tranfserring it to my hand. I had questions, the first one, will the hair from my thigh end up on my hand and I’ll have a hairy hand?… The looks I got, no, we dont go that deep under your skin. Second question.. will my cellulite transfer to my hand and I’ll have a fat hand?.. Those looks continued with a little bit of laughter, thankfully, the answer was no once again. Alright, lets do this, I can do this, you guys know what you are doing. Waiting and waiting. I could see all the nurses and my surgeon talking by the nurses station, I dont think I took my eyes off them for a good hour. I got word I was going in, I saw my mom’s face with worry, concern and love. A different anethesiologist came in this time, she looked young and like she waas having the worst day. Her scrub hat was on crooked covering only half her head, the case she was holding looked like things were about to fall out and she asked me if I was ready to go… In my head I thought to myself, oh fuck, she is gonna kill me. Yes, sure, lets do this. They wheeled me down a different hall and my mom walked with me for as far as she could go and we said I love you. The surgical room was intriguing, there was the nurse I had asked to over see my surgery since she was a student, I told her I wanted her to learn. The doctor that had originally scraped the skin off my hands, the med students that had been following my surgeon around the room. It felt like a really weird reunion and also very calming. I made it to the surgery table and they gave the anaesthesia, count backyards they said, I dont think I had the chance. I woke up in this room where there were some kind of colorful curtains surrounding me and a nurse looking at me, everything was blurry and oh fuck the pain! what the fuck, I was screaming so loud and I went to move my leg and there was something pulling from the top of my thigh across to the lower part of the stomach. There was a staple and I asked the nurse why it was there in between screams and she looked horrifed. Shesaid she didnt know and pulled it out immedicately. For a second I was ok and then that pain came back again, but now on top of my thigh and I looked an there it was a blue towel stapled over my donor site. And its burning, the type of burn you get when you skin your knee as a kid on hot gravel but on top of my thigh and so unexpected. The nurse went to grab help because I was so overwhelmed and kept losing my breathe and passing out. She found nurse Robyn, my hero. She was a burn unit nurse and she explained everything that I was going through and helped me understand what I was feeling and calmed me down. She told me that I need to remind myself that the burn was traumatic and I had a long recovery ahead of me physically and mentally. I think I blacked out after that, I felt peace. I woke up and saw my mom, she told me the surgery took longer then expected. But, I was back in my room with part of my thigh missing and a giant white plastic cast thing on my hand. The day went by quickly and my boyfriend was back and he checked out my thigh and gave me kisses and hugs and told me about the outside world while telling me how strong I was. I just wanted to go home and be held. Now, how do I get up to go pee with a blue towel stapled to my thigh that everytime I step pulls in every direction and burns and tears and hurts? Persistence.
It was my third day. It was May 5, 2018. It was 5:30 p.m. I was working sauté and another cook who was hired the day after me was working grill next to me. The next few minutes feel like only segments of memory, like snapshots. I remember facing the stove and some one reaching in front of me to get a pan, I turned to look at tickets and begin to prepare my orders. I got plates setup. When I went back to the stove there was a cast iron pan smoking, I knew it could be bad if it was on the flame much longer. I reacted quickly to avoid a fire and grabbed the pan off the stove with a towel in hand. I didn’t know that the person who had put it there put too much oil, I didn’t know that the oil would spill on my hand and after I felt that oil hit the top of my hand I only saw snapshots. I saw my lead grab my arm and ask if I was ok, the next thing I knew I was across the kitchen and by the First Aide box trying to convince her I was ok. I remember sitting in the office waiting for the chefs to come and decide what they should do with me. I started telling jokes, I started to shake, I was embarrassed and not understanding the severity of what had just happened. I was told that burn cream isn’t going to do anything because the oil was frying my hand. I looked at it, it was white. One of the chefs got a bucket full of ice and water and told me to dunk my hand in it. I couldn’t feel the cold, I couldn’t feel anything on my hand anymore. I remember looking at the bucket and seeing particles of food crusted on the sides of it. I thought to myself about how my hand could get infected because that was unsanitary, and not wanting to say anything because I didn’t want to look weak. I remember telling my sous chef there is no crying in the kitchen, I held the tears back that I refused to cry. I was told to get into my executive chef’s car with this bucket of ice that my hand was dunked into to go to Urgent Care. The drive felt like forever, she was telling me about a burn she had, I didn’t care. There was a really young boy in urgent care coughing and his mom was holding him and I remember trying to keep a positive face so he wouldn’t get scared of my fried hand. They took me to a room and inspected my hand, I didn’t have the ice bucket, they said they would be right back. The feeling came back, not quickly, but it made time seem so slow and fast at the same time. I was alone, I let a few tears fall while my body started to shake again. I called my boyfriend and kept a good voice on so I wouldn’t worry him. He asked what I needed, I told him I don’t know, I’ll be ok and ill send him some photos.
My phone rang, my boyfriend said, babe that is really bad. How do I get to you? What’s going on, are you ok?? I cried a little more and I told him I’m trying to be tough and I would call him when I was done at urgent care. We got off the phone, I could hear it in his voice. I could hear that I should have been really upset, that I should have been crying my eyes out but I pushed through. The doctor came in and they had the look on their face that I felt from my boyfriend’s voice. He saw my few tears I let leak as he told me he couldn’t do anything for me and I need to go to the hospital because it was that bad. I took a breathe, he told me to take a breathe. I told him it was my third day at this job and that I didn’t want my chef to see me crying. He said ok, you got this, breathe. Deep breathe, get up, wipe my face and start walking out. My boyfriend called again in concern, I told him I was going to a hospital and that I didn’t know which one, I told him to call my parents but not to alarm them. I see my chef and she asked what the doctor said, I need to go to the hospital its too severe to treat here. She told me she had already dumped the bucket of ice water because she thought I’d be treated there. We found a hospital, we drove about twenty minutes. The feeling was rushing back into my hand like it was on fire. I had it in front of the air conditioning vent cause I didn’t know what else to do. She informed me that the other chefs had asked who put the pan there, he didn’t step up, he didn’t admit that he put a quarter cup of oil into a pan instead of only a tablespoon. I was so upset, I couldn’t believe that they didn’t take responsibility, I couldn’t believe she was telling me this right now as if waiting for me to blame myself. My hand was on fire and I just wanted to be alone and not alone at the same time. We finally made it to the emergency room and I stood in line with my hand on fire now and my body freezing. Still trying to play it cool and act like I am tough and I am gonna be fine. The nurse behind the counter saw my hand and called me over immediately he started taking my blood pressure and temperature. I feel like he could see in eyes that I was holding back tears. He said we need to get her to a room we can do intake there. The hallways felt like forever, everything looked new and empty like no one else knew this hospital existed except for me and my chef who was still by my side. It was 7 pm. My chef had been on the phone with another and I could tell she was getting antsy. I was getting hooked up to monitors and an IV, my phone was dying and my mom was calling me and my boyfriend was texting me and I just wanted to fall into a hole and never get out. My chef was watching me like I was going to say everything is fine. So, I did, I told her she can go back and I’ll be ok because I had nurses and doctors to take care of me now. She waited though, she wanted to see what the doctor would say. I don’t remember who the doctor was, but I remember her telling me that they wouldn’t be able to help me at the hospital because I have a significant burn and I need to be in a burn unit. I had the option of having some one come get me to take me to the burn unit or by ambulance. Ambulance, I knew that would be the most sterile way to go. I was able to tell my chef she can go and I’ll take it from here because now we have things figured out, it was 8:30 pm. She wished me luck and walked out the room, as soon as I couldn’t see her back I turned my head towards the nurse that was checking my vitals and I ugly cried. All the tears I had been holding back for the last three hours of pain came shooting out of my eyes. And all I could say was my career is over, I can’t believe this happened it was my third day, I have been doing this 15 years and this is how it ends. My mom kept texting and I told my boyfriend that I was going to be transferred by ambulance to the burn unit closer to our home. I talked to my mom on the phone and now I could hear it in her voice, the concern, the worry. I didn’t know how to tell her that I was ok through the tears that I was crying and the pain I wasn’t feeling anymore in my hand. I didn’t want pitty eyes, I was so angry. My phone was close to dying. It was 9:30 pm. I don’t remember what was on the TV. I could smell the cooked food smell on my clothes. It felt like forever waiting for the ambulance. Around 10 pm I was told that the ambulance was there and being sterilized. 10:30 pm and my boyfriend was trying to find out when he should head over because he was waiting for me to get into the ambulance. It was 11 pm, and I, at this point, thought the ambulance had left without me. I could hear the gurney coming down the hall. I felt hope. I texted my boyfriend that I was finally going by ambulance. They helped me get onto the gurney and we were headed there. We were on our way to the right place, the place where I’d be able to hug my boyfriend and take a breathe. I asked the paramedics if there was any way for them to charge the phone and they did. I felt like if it died he wouldn’t be able to find me and I would be alone and my hand wouldn’t stop burning and if I could just hug my boyfriend everything would be ok, but if my phone died how would he know to go to the trauma unit first. It was charging, a paramedic started asking me questions about my burn. He told me that I should have been airlifted when it had happened. It was almost midnight, it took almost an hour to get to the right hospital. We pulled into the ambulance bay and I saw my boyfriend out the back window. I saw him with this look on his face trying to see if I was ok. I wanted to scream to him that I was finally there but security made him go to the front of the hospital. My heart sank. I told the paramedic that I needed my boyfriend. The trauma nurse came out to help unload me. I told him my boyfriend is somewhere and I need him. The gurney hit the double doors and I was now in trauma. I told anyone that came to check on me that I needed my boyfriend and he is here and I need him now because this happened at 5:30 pm and it is now past midnight. One of the nurses found him and brought him to the back, he hugged me so tight, he had that look on his face that the sound of his voice had told me he had. In that moment, when he hugged me, I took a breathe.