Melissa Hamarstrom

My journey started four years ago on Monday January 30th 2012. I was soon to start my first year at high school, so I had decided to wax my legs so I could look good for my first day at school. Being the young, naïve person I was, I placed the pot of wax in the microwave for two minutes without reading the label, when it only needed to be heated for 30 seconds. It was safe to say that the pot had reached boiling point. Prior to this event, I had only had one experience in my life with waxing, and have not had any since. I sat down on the bed, still holding the pot, which was quite full, and realised that I had forgot to grab some wax strips, so I stood up and accidentally tripped and spilt the wax over a large quantity of my legs. At first, I didn’t realise what had happen, but as soon as the pain set in, I knew something was wrong. I remember screaming in agonising pain, alerting my two brothers, the only other people home, that something had happened.

I filled the bath with cool water and eventually got in the shower after the bath was taking too long to fill up. I Face-timed my mum for help. Once she arrived home, she immediately took me to Swan Districts Hospital, who after seeing the severity of my injury; they transferred me to Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, not before giving me some morphine.

After arriving at PMH, they immediately assessed me and almost instantly transferred me to Level 5B, the Burns Unit. I stayed there for 14 days, trying for the first 8 days to overcome my Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MSRA) infection, which is highly contagious. On the 9th day, however, I was finally well enough to undergo my spray-on-skin graft procedure using skill cells derived from the side of my buttocks, which was performed by Dr Wood. After my surgery, I found it difficult to walk again. My foot was twisting to the side and I mostly hobbled everywhere. Learning to walk at age 13 was very hard for me. I was depressed for most of the time, and wanted to give up as soon as I started. The rehabilitation team at PMH taught me how to walk again, and how to regain the muscle I lost in my left ankle.

After being released from PMH, life was not as easy as I thought it would be. I was still in and out of the hospital every couple of days to have my bandages changed. Once I was out of my bandages, I was given compression stockings to protect my legs and to help my scars. I wore them for a year and a half.
Since my skin graft surgery, I have had 5 other surgeries since and one procedure coming up. This procedure was a CO2 laser to bilateral legs, so in other words, it helped reduced the redness of my scars, and helped smoothen it. Both of these procedures I underwent were both researched by Dr Wood.

Going through adolescence with my burns was quite difficult. For a certain amount of time, I was restricted from doing things like sports. I remember trying to keep up with my fellow peers, but I was always questioned, “OMG what happened to your legs?” and after a while, I got sick of answering this question all the time. I felt like a walking clown show. It was definitely hard for me to be so different from my peers, and I was treated as if I were fragile, when really all I wanted was to be treated like everyone else.

As I am almost an adult now, the team at PMH suggested I be transferred to Fiona Stanley Hospital for the rest of my treatment and check-ups. The transition between being treated at a children’s hospital and a mixed hospital wasn’t too hard. I found that the staff at Fiona Stanley treated me more as a mature adult, not a child.
Going through such a traumatic ordeal at such a young age was frightening, and I’m so grateful that I had my supportive family, especially my mum, and the amazing Burns teams at PMH and Fiona Stanley. This could have easily happened to your daughter, or to your son, but knowing how to prevent burns could ultimately save a person’s life. I think about the person I would be today if I hadn’t gone through burns, and I can’t even imagine myself as someone different, as I am a more resilient person because of my injury.

At present, I am a current year 12 ATAR student at Darling Range Sport College and am preparing for my final exams. It is because of my experience with Burns that I have decided to pursue a career in medicine, so I can help people like how Dr Wood helped me.

Photo above: L-R - Adam Frediani, Fiona Wood with Melissa Hamarstrom at the Friends of the Fiona Wood Foundation launch event

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