Friday, July 25, 2014

My Husband's Work Accident ***WARNING: GRAPHIC BURN PICS***

The last couple months have been slower for us in the blogging world because I've added nurse-maid to my list of jobs. On May 22nd my husband came home from work and simply told me "Don't yell at me." THAT'S always a reassuring request! This is what he showed me.

9am, burn is 2 hours old

He worked with an extremely powerful chemical soap called sodium hydroxide. It comes in many forms. At Lee's work it is a liquid and it's mixed with another chemical soap and sprayed onto the machinery (he works in a bacon/ham plant as a cleaner). Turns out the nozzle of the hose he worked with had a faulty tip. Had for a good while. Had been reported and not fixed. When the nozzle was stopped, it wouldn't shut off completely, a thin but steady stream of chemical continued to flow. Lee had finished with his spraying that morning and put the hose up, out of his way. He continued his job "green padding" (essentially like SOS pads) the steel bins. Without thinking, he ended up walking right under the hose and the stream of chemical hit him. This is an extremely fast burning chemical and by the time you notice that your side is wet, the damage is done. (We've been told that the day this happened, they fixed the nozzle)

He alerted his acting supervisor (his regular was on vacation). The acting supervisor acted annoyed as it was the end of the shift and he wanted to go home. He reluctantly filled out an accident report but not a WSIB report (our worker's comp, which here, must be submitted to WSIB within 3 days of an accident). Said Lee could go to the hospital "if he wanted". 

Now in the warmer months, Lee bikes to work. One way it's 6.8km (4.2 miles). So he biked home, in jeans, with a belt that sat right on the burn, for almost 7km. No one offered him a ride. Technically, when a worker gets injured at work, the company is supposed to call and pay for a cab to the hospital. The long, bad strip of wound you see in all of the pics is where his belt sat. If he hadn't had to bike so far with his belt digging in, I truly believe it would have healed MUCH faster/easier.

So Lee got home and told me not to yell at him. As soon as he showed me the burn I took the pic above. I knew this was not a simple owie. He's gotten a gazillion small burns from this stuff (better protective gear had been asked for by several employees and never received) but none ever this large nor this horrid looking. As you can see with his hand in the pic, the large burn is nearly the size of his hand and he has large labourer's hands.

Lee did not want to go to the hospital. Sure, it looked bad but "it didn't feel bad." I posted the pic above to one of my mommy groups to get opinions as I knew there was at least 2 nurses in the group. They ALL said to go to the hospital, including both nurses. 

Lee went to take a shower (as this was not offered at work) to get the rest of the chemical off as he could still feel a bit of burning. I was concerned about clothing fiber getting into the wounds and dressed them with our (thankfully) extensive first aid "kit" (kit in quotations because we actually have several large boxes and bags of first aid supplies). 

Thankfully I HAD taken the above picture because that's what we had to use for the triage nurses to see the severity since I covered them on his body. They were concerned with the amount of blackening and worked us through triage quite quickly.

He was diagnosed with 2nd and 3rd degree chemical burns. 

He tried to convince the dr that he was fine and didn't really need time off, but if he insisted, Lee would take off the rest of the week (2 days). We declined at home nursing care for the dressings changes since I knew how and had all the supplies (including the special tape Lee has to use as he's allergic to classical medical tape)

2 days later, his nerves started slowly working again and he was in so much pain he could barely walk. He had to wear the loosest pants possible (and most often, just boxers that were too big) and have the burn be well padded. I told him that he couldn't possibly go back to work like this, so he agreed to go back to the hospital the next day.

3 days later, an infection settled into the large wound. Thankfully we caught it quickly, got him medicated, and it was almost gone by the next day
From that point, we went back to the hospital every 5-10 days to get his burns checked and to inevitably get more time off work.

From here down, the long strip of wound is the bottom of the burn, down his hip. My phone twists and turns pics as it pleases.

The black line is from us marking where the infection line was. As you can see, it healed up well

The 3rd burn, on his thigh, is now completely healed and we're just working on the top 2

the checker board is from the bandages we used that time

On June 5th, 2 weeks after the accident, the drs at the ER were concerned that healing seemed to had stalled on his major wound. They referred us to a special nursing clinic who had a burn specialist nurse on staff. They figured at the very least, the specialist nurse may have a new way to dress the wound that would speed healing back up again. It worked.

On June 9th, we were in contact with his company's head office. We found out that no one had ever told head office about the burns. They only found out because WSIB contacted them because no one had followed the 3 day required reporting. So it seems, even though the acting supervisor did the accident report, he didn't file it with head office. The lady we spoke to at head office was not terribly impressed. We faxed all of our papers that we received from the hospital directly to her.

Here we started soaking his burn in a medicated gel to get the dead skin to slough off. It was the worst looking for a couple weeks!

On June 20th, 4 weeks, 1 day after the accident he was cleared to go back to work, light duties, in that he needed to stay dry. He's a cleaner. His entire plant is full of water. Thankfully his supervisor (the regular one), found some random stuff for him to do that kept him dry. By this time, all of his burns except the main one had healed enough to not need any bandaging.

A week of light duties and the nursing clinic deemed him fine to go back to regular duties, but try to keep his bandage as dry as possible (his supervisor kept him doing "light duties" for another week though). We would keep seeing the nurses, but didn't need to go back to the ER unless he developed another infection.

On July 3rd, a rep from WSIB contacted us about his file.

This picture looks worse than the one above, but it's just better lighting. It IS doing better! On this day, the nurse cauterized the large part on the bottom some as it was growing upward away from his body as it was healing.

On July 10th the WSIB claim was approved and we got a cheque for lost wages. As we are a single income family, our bills very much appreciated that there is a program such as this.

On July 17th, the nurse cauterized the 2 small open spots again.

Here, the tiny bit of open wound has healed between and split into 2 small wounds. The larger one (that's actually visible), is a bit smaller than a dime, the smaller one is roughly the size of the top of a pencil eraser.

On July 24th, the nurses office officially discharged Lee from needing their services. He has one tiny open spot left (which the nurse cauterized again) but is otherwise "healed". The nurse warned him that it could take as much as 2 *years* to fully heal. And of course he will always have a large scar.

While he has returned to full duties as work and has even resumed riding his bike to work, he is used to doing this with a thick padded bandage on his burn. So once the small open area is closed, we will be able to leave it open to air, but for work (especially the biking part), we will still add a bit of padding along his belt line to prevent rubbing for a while.

The one good thing of all this is the girls have learned a lot about first aid. We're not a squeamish family so one or the other often watched me change his bandages (and played assistant) and Olivia came with us to the nurses office a couple times. Olivia was at first terrified that if Daddy ever went back to work he'd get burned again. Thankfully we were able to tell her that he would never work with the yucky stuff that hurt him, ever again.


  1. Glad to see and hear that he is healing properly. Stay safe.

  2. Man I don't know how I missed that this had happened! I am glad to hear he is doing better. I am curious, you said you told Olivia he would never work with the yucky stuff again so is he getting a different position or did they change what they use? I gotta say, it almost turns me off of bacon if they have to use stuff that can do that to clean the equipment (and I LOVE me some bacon!! lol)

  3. He moved to a different department. The chemical that he got burned with is from the ham department, so you're still safe eating bacon lol

  4. How scary!! I always know when my son says "don't freak out, mom" that it is going to be bad! I think "don't be mad" must mean about the same thing. Prayers for continued healing and staying well.