While at home with friends enjoying a Sunday afternoon, Jillian Martin, Daniel Rhodes and their children Spencer, two, and Isaiah, one, were in the backyard enjoying the outdoors.
Spencer was doing what most toddlers love doing - exploring. Spencer loved playing with their dogs and digging in the dirt. But on this particular day, he chose to dig in a new area.
On the Thursday night prior, the family had a lit a fire in the backyard, and believed that they had completely extinguished it appropriately the following morning.
“On Friday morning, Dan soaked the fire pit until there was water pooling on top. We thought we had done the right thing,” Jillian said.
But on that Sunday afternoon, 3 days later, Spencer had made his way to the fire pit and dug his feet in. Jillian heard Spencer cry out in pain and quickly sprinted over to him. He had suffered burns and was rushed to the emergency department.
“To see your child screaming and to be in that much pain is something I would not wish upon anyone.”
Spencer and Daniel were flown via the Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS) to Townsville.
Jillian and Daniel were no strangers to Ronald McDonald House in Townsville, having regularly stayed at the House when their local Mount Isa pediatrician was unavailable to see their one-year old son, Isaiah.
Jillian rang RMHC North Australia to inform the Charity that she needed accommodation for the third time in eight months.
“As usual, it was like calling a family member to say - things aren't going well, I'm coming to stay for an indefinite period of time until we can recover.”
The family stayed at RMHC North Australia for the next five weeks. Jillian noted that while each visit is hard, the support of RMHC North Australia staff and volunteers makes an incredible difference.
“After a while they become an extension of your family. They're supportive, cheering on your recovery,” Jillian said.
Spencer was unable to walk for four weeks. He went through intense therapies to rebuild his confidence and strength to walk again. Spencer had two debridement surgeries involving Doctors to assess how deep the burns were.
“He required 3 skin grafts for the entire top, heel and toes on his right foot, and a few smaller pieces on his left.
“Talking to the surgeons, we found out that the proper way to put out a fire is to stir it. When ash forms on top of the coals it acts as a barrier between the coals and the elements to ensure the coals can continue to burn,” Jillian explained.
As a result of Spencer’s burns, he has to wear compression garments on his feet for the next 18 - 24 months and the family will continue to travel to Townsville every three months so that Spencer can receive laser therapy for his scars.
“We feel so fortunate to be able to stay at RMHC each time our children require specialised medical treatment. They allow us to be within walking distance of our children, a place to stay without feeling too far away.
“On 2 occasions, sponsors donated tickets for us to attend Cowboys football matches. This was huge for Spencer. He thought he was so special and it was a real highlight for us all.
“For a child that had been through hell and back, it was such a pleasure to see so much happiness and joy on his face. Thanks to Sunbus we even got to ride on a bus to the football. I'm not sure which part was more exciting for him.
“Thank you RMHC NA for not only becoming an extension of our family, but for being there for us during the worst times. Without the House, the staff and volunteers, recovery would be a lot slower, with a lot more added stress.”