Toddler in ICU after he’s scalded by hot oil
Mother of toddler in ICU shocked at extent of his injuries after hot oil splashes on his face and body
During the month of Ramadan, the home becomes a place where many Muslims start and break their fast as a family.
But for Madam Masshitah Abdullah, 31, it is now a place she wants to avoid at all costs.
The marketing manager said yesterday: "If I go back, it will remind me...."
Her voice trailed off before she added: "I'm not ready yet."
She was still visibly traumatised by the second-degree burns suffered by her 15-month-old son, Aafaa Zuhayr Muhammad Al-Khair, last Monday after he was scalded by hot oil in the kitchen of their flat.
The toddler is now hospitalised at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), where he had a fourth operation yesterday to clean up the bacteria in the wounds on his face.
Madam Masshitah and her husband, Mr Muhammad Al-Khair Salahuddin, 30, told The New Paper yesterday how their only child got injured.
Last Monday, Madam Masshitah was cooking in the kitchen when her son wandered in.
Unnoticed by her, the toddler accidentally tipped over a hot frying pan containing oil that his mother had left to cool down on the kitchen counter top.
She realised what had happened only when she heard the pan hit the floor, followed by Aafaa wailing in pain.
Sizzling oil had splashed on little Aafaa's face and also trickled down his body and arms.
Mr Khair, a property agent with OrangeTee, said: "Our helper was supposed to keep the baby out of the kitchen. (My wife) did not know he was in the kitchen."
The little boy was taken to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital before being transferred to KKH the same night. He is now in the intensive care unit (ICU).
Since then, the couple have made KKH their second home, returning to their flat in northern Singapore only to shower and change.
It was difficult at first to accept that the toddler with a swollen red face and whimpering in bed was her son, said Madam Masshitah.
"At first, I told the counsellor I couldn't believe that it's my son. I kept asking the doctor if that's my son," she said.
Mr Khair let on that his wife was emotionally unstable for the first few days after the accident.
"Every time she meets friends or relatives, she will cry before she says anything," he said.
He added that he has been messaging their well-meaning friends to offer positive words to his wife when they visit.
Said Madam Masshitah: "I just wanted my baby. I couldn't really hold him and could only see him from afar.
"I'm so afraid to fall asleep. Whenever a doctor runs into the ICU, my heart would stop for a while, wondering if anything had happened to my son."
Worried sick about her baby, she lost her will to eat, having nothing more than just a cup of Milo every day since the incident.
Seeing how fragile his wife had become, Mr Khair knew he had to be the pillar of the family.
"Of course, I'm sad. But I have to be strong. So far, I've been holding it quite well," he said.
"Sometimes it feels like (the tears are) coming out, but I hold it back in."
He said that an in-house counsellor at the hospital told him that his wife could be slipping into depression.
"(The counsellor) told me to take care of her and monitor her, or she will be two weeks away from the first stage of depression," he said.
Mr Khair added that his wife was badly affected by the accident because she would be concerned for Aafaa even if he gets a nick or a bruise.
"Out of the two of us, she has always been the one who's worried about making sure the baby is safe. She even wanted to buy a baby helmet for him.
"That's why she's so affected. She doesn't know how much more she must do to ensure nothing happens to the baby," he explained.
Things began to look up last Friday when friends, relatives and even strangers who learnt about Aafaa's accident started visiting the couple. Their spiritual support created a positive buzz for them.
"Everyone is praying and I see a lot of improvement (in my son's condition). I do believe in prayers to create a miracle," Madam Masshitah said.
As for Mr Khair, he is just trying to stay optimistic.
"I take it that it's already happened. It's just that I have to go through it and the process is quite painful because it's going to take a few months (for Aafaa to recover)," he said.
Out of the two of us, she's always been the one who's paranoid about taking care of the baby. She even wanted to buy a baby helmet for him. That's why she's so affected.
- Mr Muhammad Al-Khair Salahuddin on his wife's state of mind
DOCTOR: BURN INJURIES MORE SERIOUS IN CHILDREN
Children have a relatively higher surface area to volume ratio compared to adults, which magnifies the severity of a burn injury.
This can make treatment tricky, said Dr Tan Ying Chien, a plastic surgeon at The Sloane Clinic.
For instance, fluids have to be replaced aggressively in children intravenously as they are more prone to dehydration.
Dehydration occurs because the burnt part of the skin is no longer able to act as a protective barrier and regulate fluid loss. Dr Tan likened this to pouring water into a plastic bag with a hole.
He added that the period of recovery for burn victims hinges on the severity of the injury but often, multiple operations are needed, for instance, to perform skin grafts and change the dressing.
"Sometimes, the burn injury may extend deeper into the skin after some time and doctors realise more skin grafts have to be done," said Dr Tan, who is trained in burns surgery.
Finding enough "donor areas" - parts of the body with unburnt skin - can be tricky for kids who require multiple skin grafts because they have limited donor sites compared to adults.
The care does not stop with the healing of the wound.
Patients have to stick to a physiotherapy regime, especially if the skin graft is done around the joints.
Dr Tan said: "The skin becomes thicker (after a graft) and (this) may affect movement around the joints. Physiotherapy is needed to ensure that the skin does not thicken to become scars and (to) allow the patient to resume his mobility to the level before the injury as much as possible.
"After skin graft surgery, patients will need to wear a pressure garment for a period of time to keep the grafted skin thin and supple."
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR CHILD
1 Keep matchsticks and lighters out of reach by putting them on the top shelf of a cabinet or locking them in a cupboard. Do not let your children play with them.
2 Avoid using tablecloths as your child could tug at them. Any hot food and liquids placed on the table could spill and scald your child. Consider place mats instead.
3 Keep your children out of the kitchen when you are cooking. When leaving pots and pans on the stove, turn their handles inwards so your child cannot pull and overturn them. Install stove guards.
4 Ensure that thermos flask caps are closed securely so your children cannot tilt the flasks and spill hot liquids on themselves. Always use thermos flasks that have safety locks.
5 Keep your children away when you are ironing. After ironing, make sure that the iron and its cord are stored properly to prevent children from pulling the cord or toppling the iron.
6 Always add hot water to cold water when preparing your child's bath water. In this way, if your child playfully jumps into the basin or tub while you are not watching, the child would not get scalded by the hot water.
Source: Health Promotion Board