I am up and can’t sleep, so I thought I’d be useful and write. Sometimes, when I get a concept to write about, I’ll start with a title and then save it as a draft until I’m ready to move forward. That’s what I did in the case of this blog.
On Saturday, June 27th, I was preparing for a proud celebration in the life of parents. Mind you it was the day after the anniversary of my moms death from Breast Cancer two years ago. My youngest and last born was done with high school. So, I decided to have a small party that really only included close family to help me celebrate this massive milestone in his life. I had a beautiful graduation display arranged by my sister/best friend Michelle (who you can follow on IG: itsyourparty_mc and Facebook: It’s Your Party LMPI). She does a phenomenal job of making your vision come to life with your budget. If you’re ever in need, please contact her at 410-818-7548, you won’t be disappointed.
People were arriving, and I was taking pictures and capturing moments with Greg and the family. I began cooking on the grill and went to add lighter fluid when…BOOM! It was like a volcanic eruption of FIRE! Before I could blink my eyes, I was on fire: my pants, face, upper body, and arms. The fire had so much force behind it that I flew across the balcony and landed on my bottom after hitting my head on a stack of chairs. My shirt was still on fire, and at the moment I couldn’t think. I was steadily patting my shirt, arms, and everywhere else trying to put the fire out.
When the flames subsided, I remember just sitting there in a daze. The fire was out, but my skin still felt ablaze. I remember people running over to me saying, “Aunt Sharon, are you okay? Sharon, are you okay?” I kept saying, “yes, just give me a minute.” I didn’t know what to do with myself. Really, it was as if I had frozen in time. Probably because of being in shock and just trying to gather myself and my thoughts on what I was supposed to do next. My niece and son tried picking me up, but I yelled in unbelievable pain and said, not my arms, not my arms. At that moment they grasped me from under the underarms and my best friends husband, Ed grabbed my left hand. The three of them managed to get me up.
As I stood to my feet, I stood there for a moment staring at the flames on the grill. They were back to normal, but I would never be back to normal. At least that’s what I thought at that moment. I slowly walked to the sink and began running cold water over my arms, hands, and face. People quickly moved about asking for things and placing things on me to try and bring me comfort at the moment. My brother Harold had gotten ice in a towel and applied it ever so gently to my arm. I was shaking because the pain was truly unbearable, and every time I removed my hand from the cold water, my skin felt like fresh fire all over again. My best friend places a cold rag on my face trying to bring me some relief. I mean, really, everyone was moving and doing something trying to make the situation better. Robin, my best friend who had just come in while I was at the sink, and Michelle said, “you need to go to the hospital.” My niece Jazmine was asking if I had A&D ointment that I could apply. I said no, but then my sister came in. I could hear her yelling in a panic “come on, I’m taking her to the hospital. Get her, and let’s get her in the car.”
She drove 90 mph up the street to Upper Chesapeake Hospital’s ER to get me seen. As we stood awaiting someone from registration to call me over, I was just shaking. Within seconds, but what seemed a lifetime, we were called over to be seen. In the middle of the registration, the triage nurse came out and called my name, so my sister stayed and finished the registration process. She entered the room and said she couldn’t wait, so she was leaving and call her when I was ready to be picked up. She had this sadness in her eyes and voice, and she left me there in the hands of strangers to care for me. I said okay, and she faded into the distance. I sat as the nurse asked me a barrage of questions. When explaining to her that my arm was weeping with blood and clear liquid fluid before leaving my house, she acted as if she didn’t believe me. She replied, “really, because I don’t see anything now.” I sat and watched out of my peripheral as she typed her triage note and waited to see if my arm would start weeping again. I guess my saying it wasn’t good enough. So, I had to be subject to her sitting and observing to see if it would happen again. I thought to myself, “does she think I’m lying, or does she think I don’t know what I’m talking about?” Either way, I told her that I was a nurse, which I hate doing, and was going to try and stay home and tend to my own wounds, but I thought it in my best interest to come and be seen by a doctor.
Finally, she asked me to have a seat in the waiting room until I was called back. That took over an hour, and I don’t know if you’ve ever sat, waiting in excruciating pain before, but let me tell you it’s no fun at all. I sat shaking, tapping my feet, and praying all at the same time. I heard my name being called and jumped up. I was taken to the back and explained what happened. The nurse was very thorough in her assessment and said, “I’m going to go find a doctor quick because your nose hairs are singed, which is a huge red flag for your airway.” I knew what she meant and watched as she rushed out to find a doctor.
When he arrived, he was casually nonchalant but pleasant. He said, “you look perfect for someone who was on fire.” I said well, thank you, and he started his assessment. I think sometimes one’s appearance of calm can be misleading to healthcare providers. And it shouldn’t be because everyone doesn’t come in all in a panic and uproar. Some people are calm, cool, and very collected. Besides, that should never be a sign for clinicians or physicians to think a patient is fine. He went on to tell me about letting them know if I felt my throat swelling or had any difficulty swallowing or breathing. He then checked my arm and hands and said well, we’re going to send you the burn unit at Bayview Medical so they can take a look at you and make sure you’re okay. He explained that being that my hand had second-degree burns could pose complications during the healing process, and the burn center was better prepared to adequately assess and adequately treat my wounds.
Off I went into an ambulance and down the road to the burn center. I got there after 9pm and saw the doctor-on-call and met my nurse. I was informed that I’d be staying a couple days to monitor and assess for swelling, and to have a laser procedure to determine the depth of the wounds. No problem, I settled in for the night, had a sandwich and was given medications to help with the pain as they cut into my skin and removed the burnt tissue. What a painful process that was let me tell you.
I finally fell asleep only to be awakened by the Spanish speaking older lady next to me. She snored, talked, and yelled in her sleep—no rest for my weary soul. The next day I was asked if someone could come up to be taught how to do my cleaning and dressing change. I called my sister, and she said yes. She had to go and mentally prepare herself for this challenge, LOL. It worked out fine, she was nauseous and anxious but was able to pay attention enough to understand what to do. They said Miss Alton we’re going to let you go home but only if you promise that you’ll be able to properly clean the wound and dress it. They explained that it can be painful that many patients will skip the cleaning and end up with an infection. I assured them that I would be fine as I knew that the hospital wasn’t the place to heal. I’d be better off going home and improving there.
Now, I’ll admit that it seemed more comfortable than I had expected the next day to clean and dress the wound. However, I was trying to use soap and water as they told me. My nurse gave me the cleaning solution they used to take home because it was better than soap and water and would surely get the job done right. The next day I decided to use the hospital solution because soap and water didn’t get everything off. Honey, I premedicated but was in that shower, crying, shouting, and everything. That was so painful, and I felt like I would pass out, but the dead skin was sloughing off as they said it should. I had to use more pain meds the following days because 2 pills weren’t enough to keep me from feeling like I would end up back in the hospital. After all, it hurt too bad to do it myself, and my sister couldn’t even stay in the room because of my crying and hollering in pain. With each passing day, things got better. The cleanings and dressing changes were more comfortable, and I could see the healing taking place.
There were so many mixed emotions surrounding this incident. I was sad, hurt, in pain, and just disappointed because I felt that I had messed up my son’s party. As I began healing, I started having self-esteem issues. I cried a lot in private, prayed a lot, and grieved for myself. I said to myself, “I’ll never be the same.” And that’s right, I won’t, but that’s to be expected. My skin won’t look the same, feel the same, or be the same anymore. The “ugliness” of it all will be a constant reminder of how badly I was and wasn’t burned. As the days went on, I begin to look at things differently. This ordeal made me more grateful to be alive. Instead of thinking about how ugly I was, I started thinking about how blessed I am because things could’ve been far worse.
I could’ve lost the ability to use my dominant hand, or my face could have been burned far worse. I could have been severely burned on my chest and had respiratory issues resulting from the fire. So, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started thanking God for his grace and mercy. Because if God had not been standing in that fire with me, I would think of or could have died. But just like Shadrack, Meshack and Abendigo, I came through that fire better off than before it happened. Why? Because it shifted my mindset and thinking. It made me more grateful and gave me a peace that surpasses my own understanding.
My story’s moral is don’t look at the fire itself; look at God who was encamped around me, protecting you from being hurt worse. Understand that I didn’t just step into the fire, but I came out of the fire, I went through the flames, and I’m here to share my story/testimony with you. That is the difference. Be grateful, be blessed, and be a blessing!
Until Next Time,