The ambulance arrived, and I remember pleading with the ambo to tell me if I would be blind, I was terrified my lenses had melted onto my eyes - it sure felt like it. They got me to remove the wet towel, and quickly looked. They said it seemed ok. I whacked that cold wet towel back over my face at the speed of light! I told my little girl that her Nanny would be there with her soon, and to be brave and wait for her. My poor baby was so confused and upset, and so afraid.
The ambulance ride was no picnic, being unable to see made me seasick on the journey - fortunately we lived only a few minutes away from the Lister Hospital, Stevenage. We arrived, and I was rushed into Emergency. I kept asking them to help me with my lenses - one nurse asked if they could use forceps! eeek! I replied with a firm no, but I needed something to put them in. She asked whether I had brought my lens case? Um, I hadn't really thought of it! Can't understand why! I eventually managed to get my lenses out, a vast relief. The towel was taken from me, and they wet strips of cotton wool with saline solution for my face, more hygienic apparently, although I couldn't have given a hang. The indignities began with a tetanus needle in my backside, which then ached like the devil for days. A further shot of useless pethidine followed. Having decided there was little more they could do, I was hurried off to the Accident Ward.
My condition was described as "serious but stable". The first thing I did when I was ladled into a hospital bed was start throwing up. My word, that HURT my face something awful. The Doctor said it was shock, so I was given another shot of who knows what. Then I sat there for what seemed hours. Eventually it was morning, and to my horror I found I couldn't open my eyes. I struggled for ages, until finally I managed to open my right eye a slit - I could see! I was overjoyed to see the sunlight shining in. Indignity number one was breakfast - of all things it was cornflakes. I was unable to see, unable to open my mouth properly, as I was now grotesquely swollen. I spilled milk and cereal all down my front, and to my horror I started crying. I had made a mess, so I cried?
I crept out of bed, unseen, and managed to see myself in the mirror. At that moment I wanted to hurl myself out of the window. I looked like a monster. My face was huge, great blisters hanging off everywhere, and large pieces of skin dangling. My eyes were tiny slits. Hideous.
After being under observation for about 3 days I was finally moved into the ward. My head was itching like crazy but they wouldn't let me take off the surgical cap they had stuffed onto my head in Emergency. I had to wash each morning in Cetrimide, which stank and was a vast relief. I found I was stuck to the pillow each morning, which was fluid leaking from the enormous blisters. When I walked I would feel the bags of fluid under my chin, sloshing back and forth like dewlaps. I was forbidden a bath until perhaps a week, only being allowed a wash. I was forbidden a hair wash - my wounds were open and my hair was apparently full of ash and soot. I couldn't see more than a foot in front of me, with no lenses and not being able to wear glasses. Reading a magazine was a recipe for a monstrous headache.
I didn't have a great number of visitors, which was ok, with the way I looked! It was very lonely though. One evening, as visitors were leaving the wards, a woman walking past looked across and said "MY GOD!" in a shocked voice. I knew she was looking at me, and hit bottom so hard I started to cry. Thank heavens for my dear nurse though. That woman had no idea how much she had hurt me.
Gradually I started to heal, which brought other problems. I started to sneeze at intervals, and the pain was horrific each time I did. My nurse said that the inside of my nostrils had been burned and it was the new hairs growing back and tickling me. Eating and drinking were a major challenge, but somehow I managed. Nobody thought to give me a cup with a straw, and silly me didn't even know they had them.
Boredom was the worst, so I pleaded to help the nurses with things like bed making - not fun as the ward was prone to static electricity. It made time pass though.
After nagging relentlessly to go home, the Doctors finally released me, to my joy. I had been in for four weeks and was going quite stir crazy. I still had areas of raw skin, but the swelling had gone, thank goodness. The blisters had also gone. The worst was my nose, across the bridge, as it was dreadfully painful. It felt as though I had broken it. Strangely, it was only as I was released that I found out that the hospital had no idea how to deal with me, they had never had a burns case! Oh dear!
At home I was surprised and pleased when my own dear G.P. called in to check on me. He looked at my poor snout, and informed me that I had picked up an infection, hence the pain. A short course of ointment and antibiotics soon fixed that.
We had a very delayed Christmas, but the best gift was being reunited with my baby, who was so happy to have mummy home.
My visitors? I was furious when my mum-in-law told me that when she arrived to collect Katrina she found her alone, sitting on the hall floor, crying because she had wet her pants. She was just a baby and horribly traumatised, and they had ignored her. They STAYED in my home, and one girl visited me 3 times and the other not at all. You can guess how I felt about that too!