Baby Food, Burns and Hungry Horse
The beginning of December marked the end of a long battle to get compensation for PK after he suffered an injury as a baby. Warning, this post has graphic pictures.
In August 2013, when PK was 9 months old, we were on holiday in Pickering. Three days into the holiday, we went to the circus – me, Stonelaughter, Bean, Plum and PK, my parents and my nephew and afterwards we went to a Hungry Horse to get something to eat.
It was really really busy and when our food was brought, it was chaotic. PK, at 9 months old, would normally eat whatever we were having, but we’d ordered curries and chillies and not being sure how hot they would be, we ordered him some organic baby food from the menu. It came out in a plastic tub (the kind you buy guacamole in, for instance, at the supermarket), with a plastic lid resting on top and placed on a plate. It came out with all the other plates and was put on the table in front of PK. Before anyone could move it away from him, he’d pulled the plate off the table. The food spilled on him, some on his chest and most on his bare foot. He screamed and I immediately wiped the food off his foot. The skin came away with it.
The baby food had been served so hot that it took the skin clean off his foot. It burned my hand as I wiped it away. We immediately summoned a waitress who brought a bowl of cold water, clean jay cloths and the manager. Poor PK was stripped down to his nappy, his foot placed in a bowl of cold water, and cold water from another bowl was constantly applied to his chest while we waited for the ambulance to arrive.
I cannot describe how scary this all felt. When the paramedics arrived, they checked him over, had the manager wrap him in cling film and took PK and I to the nearest hospital, straight into the resuscitation unit. Those words terrified me and riding in the back of the ambulance with a screaming PK, with the lights on and sirens blaring stays with me.
At the hospital it was quite quickly decided that he needed to be transferred to a specialist paediatric burns unit, the nearest of which was in Wakefield. Another ambulance ride with lights and sirens, with Stonelaughter travelling in the car behind.
Thankfully, the burns to his chest turned out to be much less serious than at first thought, but his foot was very badly burned. It was cleaned, treated, bandaged and we all had a sleepless night in the hospital room so they could keep an eye on him (sleepless, but not bed-less, as Stonelaughter and I were given camp beds so we could stay in the room with PK over night).
The next day, the burn on his chest was nothing more than a slightly red spot, no blisters etc and they were happy that the danger from burning his chest was over. We were allowed to leave and carry on with our holiday, though we needed to go back in 4 days time to get his foot looked at again and have the dressings changed.
Off we went back to Pickering. By the late afternoon, PK had managed to work the dressings on his foot loose and we had to go back to the hospital in Scarborough to have them redress the burn. They made the dressing come further up his leg to see if it would stay put better. It didn’t. The next day, it needed doing again, but after consulting with the burns unit in Wakefield, it was established that a GP surgery within walking distance of the house we were staying in had someone with the necessary experience to change the dressing. She increased the length of it again. This time it stayed put til we were back in the Burns Unit in Wakefield for our appointment three days later.
At that appointment, they cleaned and redressed the burn and then transferred us to our nearest Paediatric Burns Unit at home, as we were leaving that day. We were told then that most of the top of his foot had sustained second degree burns, with several spots over his toes and one spot on his instep sustaining full thickness burns. They couldn’t tell us much more until the burns started to heal; then they would be better able to predict outcomes.
Once the healing began, we were told that the majority of the burns on the top of his foot would heal well, as would, they thought the patch of full thickness burn on the side of his foot. What concerned them most were the full thickness burns on his toes. They went over the joints on his toes and they didn’t know if the skin would be able to expand as his foot grew. It may be necessary, they said, for skin grafts further down the line, but there was no way of knowing until he got bigger. We were handed over to Queens in Nottingham, where we had to go two or three times a week so that the burns could be cleaned and dressed, and assessments made on his progress.
One thing which was for sure, his foot would need to be covered for at least two years – when the bandages came off (which they did, quite unexpectedly a couple of weeks later), he would need to wear a sock as a minimum whenever he was outside until the skin stopped discolouring, which it still hasn’t, three years later – when he has a bath, the area that was burned still goes red. Once that has stopped happening, we can stop covering his foot at all times. However, we were warned that he would need factor 50 sunscreen on his foot for life.
It’s over three years now since the incident and Stonelaughter and I can still see where the burn was – a slightly different shade of skin, which others probably wouldn’t notice, and slight wrinkles where the full thickness burns were. I think he got off very lightly.
A couple of weeks after we got back from holiday, I went to see a solicitor. We hadn’t thought about suing for compensation until we were told that there would be lifelong effects for him and possible surgery. The manager of the restaurant had admitted the staff were at fault whilst he was administering first aid, so it seemed like it would be quite a straightforward thing to do. How wrong we were.
For two and a half years, the restaurant denied causing the burns to PK’s foot, accused me of being to blame, denied that the food had been served too hot … a world away from what they had said when it happened. Witness statements were collected and PK had to be seen again by another doctor, so he could make an assessment for the claim (by this time we had been discharged by the Burns Unit, as the skin was healing and they couldn’t do any more until we knew if it would cause him problems in mobility and growth). The doctor checked his foot, looked at the photos of the burn, agreed his injuries were consistent with what we said had happened, and then told me that in his opinion, PK would not need surgery in future, and his foot should heal well with no lasting effects beyond the need for covering outside to protect the skin from the sun.
Until that point we still didn’t know what the future would hold, so to hear that it would more than likely be fine was such a relief. I hadn’t realised how much fear I was still holding on to until that moment.
Eventually, our solicitor issued court papers, and quite suddenly, the restaurant admitted fault. It seems that until this point they had not had legal advice or if they did, it changed quite suddenly, because once the court papers were issued, they immediately admitted liability. It was over! Except it wasn’t. For another six months, they argued over how much compensation they would pay. In the end, it was agreed that they would pay half of what our solicitor had asked for, and they would not reimburse the hundreds of pounds Stonelaughter and I had paid out in travel and costs for all the hospital appointments. All that was left was to go to court and have a judge sign off on the agreement – agree that the amount proposed was enough etc.
So off we went to County Court to see the judge. Whilst we waited for our turn, PK was very lively. He kept up a constant chatter, zipping from one subject to the next until our solicitor’s head was spinning. PK told him how his foot had “exploded” and the solicitor went pale, saying he hoped he didn’t say that in front of the judge. When we went into the court, our solicitor told the judge that PK was “very animated this morning” and the judge replied that he had been warned already! As it was, PK sat in almost complete silence, dancing his fingers across the desk in front of him, until he announced that this was “very funny” and the judge chuckled to himself. Eventually it was all done and dusted, the restaurant was ordered to pay the agreed amount to the court within 2 weeks and it will be put into trust until PK reaches 18.
So all that remains now is to keep PK’s foot covered in the sun until the burn area stops discolouring when it gets warm (like in the bath) and after that, he needs to wear strong sunscreen on it outdoors for the rest of his life.
And I will never set foot in a Hungry Horse again.