The ear-piercing screams of little Shelley Cannon will haunt her mum forever. Every day for some three months the brave Sydney toddler has endured unimaginable pain to recover from severe burns after being scalded by hot water while on holiday.
Her story is one every parent risks when we look away or let our guard down, even if just for a moment. Most of the time we get lucky and can notch close-calls up to experience, Shelley’s mum Torie hopes her story will make us all think twice.
Shelley is your typical cheeky two-year-old. Her beautiful blue eyes, mop of blonde curls and skin like a porcelain doll meant she drew attention wherever she went. That changed when her family headed to their favourite caravan park for the Easter long weekend this year.
Shelley’s toddler curiosity and climbing skills took a dangerous turn when she managed to reach and pull the lever to an urn of instant hot water in the park’s communal kitchen.
The scalding water left the little girl with third degree burns to her face and chest and second degree burns to her stomach and right knee. The severe burns covered 18 per cent of her tiny body. Warning: some readers may find the pictures below disturbing, but mum Torie Cannon wants to share them to show people what horrors can happen in a split-second.
She tells Babyology of the heart wrenching moments that followed her daughter’s screams.
“You know when you’re running so fast that time stands still and it’s like you have this force pushing you and guiding you, like lifting you up and over objects and people? It was that kind of run,” Tori says.
The family – Tori, her husband and their three children – were enjoying the sun in the same caravan park where they have spent many holidays over the past eight years.
“The more you are comfortable, the more you put your guards down,” she says.
Her two eldest children and their friends wanted to make a fruit salad and, while their caravan has its own kitchen, Torie says they were adamant about using the camp kitchen in the caravan park.
“To save an argument I let them go, saying ‘take your sister with you’,” she says.
What came next was horrifying.
“Unknown to me, as I sat enjoying the sun, my two-year-old would be moving a rubbish bin to under a bench, climbing onto the bench off the bin and standing under a zip hot water urn about to pull the bright red lever.”
A quick thinking staff member put Shelley under a running tap in the kitchen sink.
“There was my baby girl, my smallest and most innocent beautiful, happy and playful baby girl sitting there in horrific pain,” Torie says.
“I grabbed her and ran back to the caravan…I jumped in the shower with her, I could see her forehead was peeling from the scold and, as I removed her clothes, I peeled off her skin with her shirt leaving a couple of blisters and raw skin.”
Torie and her husband put Shelley in the car and raced to hospital.
“I don’t think there are words to describe the feelings involved,” she says.
“Guilty, I was feeling guilty for sure, scared for her, lost, guilty, unsure, guilty.”
Shelley ended up in the burns unit at Westmead Children’s Hospital for two weeks.
“There was concerns about the possibility of needing a skin graft but it didn’t come to that,” Torie says.
“The burns are now looking amazing and healing is going well. She is getting better daily. She is happy and playful and back to her normal self. It looks like she will have minimal to no scarring.”
Torie hopes her daughter’s story will prompt other parents not to be complacent and realise how quickly things can go wrong.
“Just because you’re comfortable doesn’t mean your little one is safe. This could happen to anyone, anywhere. It may not be a zip hot water urn, maybe a hot cup of tea or coffee, might be a pot of boiling potatoes or pasta,.” she says.
“It happened to us, it could happen to anyone.”