All it took was a “split second” for six-month-old Ben Lysaght to suffer horrific injuries from a common household item.
In July last year Ben’s mum, aged care nurse Georgette Lysaght, had gone to work and her husband Beau was looking after Ben and his older sister Brooklyn in the family room of their home in Moree, northwest NSW.
Mr Lysaght was sitting on the floor while the two children played, with Ben using a walker to navigate his way around the room, when Mr Lysaght turned and reached behind to grab his ringing phone.
The room had a gas heater, which was built into a faux fireplace and was the home’s only source of heat.
“He had turned to pick up the phone and answer it because it had rung and in that split second Ben had pushed himself to the gas heater and grabbed hold of the bars,” Ms Lysaght told news.com.au.
“Initially his hands got stuck to them and he didn’t make a sound … (Ben was) red in the face from that pain where you can’t even talk.”
Doctors would later say that what Mr Lysaght did next saved Ben from having a skin graft: the quick-thinking dad grabbed his son and began running his burned hand under a tap.
It was then Mr Lysaght called his wife, who could hear Ben was now screaming.
“All (my husband) said was ‘burn’ … my husband couldn’t even talk, he was just in so much shock,” she said.
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When Ms Lysaght got home they rushed Ben to Moree hospital, wrapping his hand in a damp cloth and using ice to keep a cool trickle of water running over the burn.
By now Ben had stopped crying and was silent – an indication of just how severe the burns he suffered were.
“Ben actually wasn’t crying when (hospital staff) were touching it. I didn’t know at the time and I was like ‘that’s good right? It doesn’t hurt as much’,” Ms Lysaght said.
“They said no, it’s bad because it means it’s gone down so deep that he can’t feel it on the top layers … he had basically fried all his nerves.”
The third degree burnt meant the tips of two of Ben’s fingers were removed because the burn – which had left some of his skin stuck to the gas heater’s bars – caused that part of the hand to “die”.
Mr and Ms Lysaght had to make fortnightly and later monthly trips to The Children’s Hospital in Westmead, Sydney, so that Ben could have physio and new casts fitted to protect the burn.
Now nearly a year on Ben’s hand has mostly healed, however, he is yet to get feeling back in his hand. Doctors have said sensation will eventually return.
“If he picks things up with that hand and he puts it in his mouth, he gets a shock, he’s not expecting it to be cold or hot,” Ms Lysaght said.
While he was too young to fully remember the incident Ben gets upset whenever he sees a gas heater and the Lysaghts have since moved into a home with split-cycle airconditioning and heating.
Ms Lysaght hopes that by sharing their story other families will be aware of the dangers heaters pose and how important first aid is.
“The more people know about burns and how easy they can happen and that it isn’t anybody’s fault,” she said.
“First aid is (so important) for mums and dads.”
What to do if your child gets burnt
Run the burn under cool running water for 20 minutes – never use toothpaste, butter, gel, cream, iced water or ice.
Dr Torey Lawrence, who is the head of the burns unit at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick, said using cold water was the “only effective first aid for burns”.
“These injuries are very serious and can cause lifelong scarring, especially if not treated correctly. While prevention is key, knowing the correct first aid to treat a burn is absolutely vital,” he said.
“When a burn occurs, the first step in treatment should always be cool running water. This can reduce the thickness of the burn, as well as the time a burn will take to heal.
“This method is effective up to three hours after the incident.”
For more information on burns prevention visit the Kids Health website.
Originally published as Dad’s ‘split second’ decision that saved life