Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Leif - OUCH! - Burned hand just before his first birthday

In recent years, Leif's dad started wondering whether he had been "born under an unlucky star." I don't believe in that kind of bad fate, and yet when I look at Leif's life, it's hard to believe that he had so many bad experiences and so much bad luck. I told Peter never to say that, about the unlucky star, because I didn't want Leif to believe that about himself. Sadly enough, I think he decided that on his own.

The first bad thing that happened to Leif was about a month before his first birthday. His brother, Peter, was being given some tests at a clinic at Fort Riley, Kansas, and the clinic was in an old part of the hospital detached from the main building, and housed in an old WWII barracks type building.

I had to wait in the waiting room with Leif while Peter was with the person doing the tests. It was a small room with chairs, and, as I recall, a sink and mirror, and a coat rack. Leif was a rambunctious little rascal who was always trying to investigate everything, and I had just about exhausted all my tricks to keep him occupied. I picked him up and as I recall, 32 years later, I went over to try to get him interested in his reflection in the mirror.

Going up the wall nearby was a pipe. It was completely unprotected and painted the same color as the wall. There was no indication of any danger.

Suddenly, Leif reached out and grabbed the pipe . . . and screamed in pain. His hand was burned so badly it was covered with blisters. I was terrified. The pipe was a "live" steam pipe that supplied the steam radiator for heat. It's unforgivable that in a hospital clinic where people were in wheelchairs, on crutches, or otherwise injured and unstable, or just plain waiting there like me, a dangerous pipe like that would have not been insulated or otherwise inaccessible.

I rushed Leif to the emergency room, where the poor, terrified child in pain was strapped to a "papoose board" with just his little arm sticking out, so that he was immobilized. He was so strong and so active that they could not even properly examine him without strapping him in like that.

As you can imagine, that terrified him even further. Leif never liked being confined in any way at all.

He had third degree burns on the entire inner part of his hand, palm and fingers, with huge blisters. I was so scared his hand would be damaged for life.

Leif required a month of painful therapy, during which his hand was bandaged and unbandaged, treated, and treated again, every day for a month.

In this photo, he is in the arms of one of the therapists. Am I an odd mother for wanting to take a photo of this? Well, I wanted proof of what happened to him, and I also photographed the pipe and the waiting room. We filed a claim against the government for pain and suffering, primarily to get them to fix the dangerous situation so someone else wouldn't get hurt.

They fought it, but eventually he was awarded $500. Think of it, just $500 for horrible pain, agony, and a month of excruciating therapy. We put that into a savings CD for him, and by the time he was in junior high, it was worth over $1000. He used the money to buy a top-end stereo rack system, which he enjoyed for years. Of course, by then he had forgotten all about the pain.

He got the bandages off a day or so before his first birthday, January 28, 1976. Luckily, his hand recovered completely, without even any scars, and he had full use of it.

Poor little guy, though. On his first birthday, after he blew out the one candle on his cake, he stuck his finger into the hot wax and burned it again. Not badly, but enough to make him cry. I'm sure it brought back memories of the burn a month before, though he could not tell us that.

Throughout his life, Leif experienced other accidents and injuries. More than his share. More than his share of pain, too.

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