As 3-year-old Vincent Zou’s parents were preparing a Chinese hot pot dish in their Miramar home, his father put a pot of boiling water on the kitchen island. Little Vincent was playing nearby and accidentally tipped the pot, bringing hot water cascading onto his chin, neck and chest.
His mother, Liping Si, admitted she panicked on that Sunday evening in late January. “He was screaming. His skin was coming off and it was bleeding,’ she said. Si and her husband didn’t know what to do, so they hustled him into the car and headed for the nearest emergency room.
“That wasn’t a good choice,” Si said Wednesday during an event marking National Burn Awareness Week at Kendall Regional Medical Center. The family sat there for 2 1/2 hours before the boy’s burns were dressed and he was referred to the Kendall hospital’s burn center, one of only six in the state.
The next day he underwent a short operation to apply human placenta membrane to his facial burn and the family learned that he had sustained second-degree burns on five percent of his body.
Vincent’s family and that of 14-month-old Lexie Puls, who was burned after tipping over a hot coffee thermos that had been left unattended on a water-dispensing machine, decided to share their stories during burn week in hopes of preventing other children from suffering scalding accidents.
“You learn something new everyday,” said Lexie’s mother, Lisah Clayton,who lives near Weston. “Both parents were in the room. All I can say is don’t take your eyes off your children. It’s extremely scary. You just can’t stop the replay button in your mind from going over the events and what you should have done.”
The water dispenser was supposedly child-proof with controls on top but there was no lid on the coffee thermos when Lexie tipped it over. She was burned on her chest, ankles and feet — even between her toes.
The most common causes of scalding accidents are spilled hot soup, coffee and tea, said Dr. Carlos Medina, a plastic surgeon and medical director of Kendall Regional’s burn center. He points out that the coffee from fast-food and coffee outlets is often heated to 160 to180 degrees, hot enough to cause serious burns.
But measures as simple as setting water heaters at 120 degrees, using back burners and turning pot handles toward the back of the stove, keeping hot drinks away from the edge of tables and counters and never holding or carrying a child with a hot drink in your hand can help prevent painful accidents.
“The kitchen is not a good place for children to be playing,” said Medina. The National Scald Prevention Campaign recommends taping off a three-foot “No-Kid-Zone” around the stove and using a safety gate while cooking to protect younger children from hot burners, pressure cookers and hot liquids and steam.
After a burn, some people think ice should be applied immediately. Not a good idea, said Medina. “It burns the burn like frost bite,” he said. It’s better to run cold water on the burn or apply cold compresses and seek medical evaluation.
Although every minute someone in the United States sustains a burn serious enough to require treatment, many people are unsure when to seek medical attention for a burn. “Pain is really a big alarm,” Medina said, as is blistering.
Both Vincent and Lexie were treated with the application of human placenta membrane, which contains stem cells that aid in healing. The treatment has been around since the 1980s but was discontinued for awhile because of concerns the tissue might carry hepatitis viruses or HIV, Medina said.
Now several companies process the placenta to make sure it is clean, but that pushes up the cost so much that the treatment is generally only used for facial burns, said Medina. Before, a burn might take three weeks to heal with daily scrubbing and applications of new dressings. With the placenta treatment, dressing changes usually aren’t required and Vincent’s chin burn was healing within three days. Now, 10 days later, there is only a slight pink color to the burn area.
The Kendall Regional burn center, which treats patients from Port St. Lucie to Naples, admitted 453 patients and saw 2,550 outpatients last year, more than any other facility in South Florida, said Peter Jude, a spokesman for the hospital. The other Miami-Dade burn center is at Jackson; there’s isn’t a burn center in Broward County.