At age 12, Tahlia sustained a scald burn injury to her foot after coming into contact with hot water. Tahlia was rinsing out containers in the kitchen for the recycling when she poured hot water from the kettle into a Nutella container. The container instantly melted from the heat, which caused it to tip from the bench, landing on Tahlia's foot. The hot water splashed her skin and pooled in her shoe. Tahlia's sister Kelsey was first to come to her aid and quickly removed Tahlia's shoe, releasing the pooled water. Closely behind was mother Candice, whose first instinct was to place her into the bath and administer first aid by placing her foot under cool running water.
"I was not sure if I should call an ambulance immediately, but I looked up Health Direct and went through a burns questionnaire which said for this size burn to call the Ambulance. So I did"- Candice
Treatment and recovery journey
Tahlia was taken to the Perth Children's hospital emergency department via Ambulance. Upon arrival, Tahlia's burns had significant blisters which needed the liquid to be extracted. This is where Tahlia was offered to be a part of a research study investigating the types of proteins present in blister liquids and how they could potentially assist in treating burns. This research study was the first of many that Tahlia became involved with along her burns journey.
After treating her burn in the ED, Tahlia was discharged and became an outpatient with the Burns Unit. As an outpatient, Tahlia visited the hospital every two to three days so that her dressing could be cleaned, changed and monitored. Dressing changes also became part of the family routine at home between visits.
After a week of outpatient treatment, Tahlia and her family were informed that part of the skin had died and was not responding to treatment. Tahlia was admitted to the hospital and underwent skin graft surgery. A piece of her lower bottom/ thigh was used for the graft. The surgery was a success, and to ensure the graft had every chance to succeed, she was non-weight bearing for over a week with the support of a wheelchair and crutches. Tahlia now has a little joke with everyone that she is literally 'kicking arse.'
A week after the operation, Tahlia returned to the Burns Unit to see the handiwork of the surgeons. On first impression, when the bandages were removed, Tahlia and Candice were a little unsure about the appearance of the graft. However, they were reassured by the team that everything was looking great. From here, they returned to outpatient treatment, which involved dressing changes and massages – which is an extremely important part of burns treatment.
As an outpatient, Tahlia had visits by many doctors – physiotherapists, Occupational therapists, Surgeons, Nurses etc. Once the scar was at a point where she did not require dressings anymore, she was fitted with a special compression sock garment which she had to wear 24hours a day for approximately eight months. After this time, due to her being 100% committed to her treatment of massage and wearing this garment, she was given the good news that this was no longer required. Whilst she was ecstatic at this news, she was also quite nervous as it had become a little bit of a safety blanket for her. It took her a few weeks to wean herself from this and know she would not hurt herself or do any further damage by not wearing it.
Fourteen months on, and Tahlia's scar looks amazing. To those who did not know about her burn, you would never know the horrific injury she had sustained. Being a burns patient never stopped Tahlia from doing anything. She was held up for about six weeks, not being able to do some of the sports and activities she enjoyed, but after this time, she was back on the Netball court and doing activities she enjoyed with no issues. Tahlia's most significant achievement has been getting involved with many of the research studies that require burns participants to hopefully be able to offer enhanced treatment for future burns patients. The biggest of these studies is the Biobank study, which explores the interaction between burn injury and the individual. Tahlia believes that by being part of these studies, she is doing her part to enable future burns patients the opportunity to receive enhanced treatment from the discoveries from this research.