Eight-month-old Levi Choo silently crawled over to the hearth, wobbled, lost his balance, and placed both hands on the hot glass of a gas fireplace.
In an instant, searing heat torched the palms of young Levi’s hands, causing second-degree burns.
“I can still hear the sound of Levi screaming. It was a scream I had never heard before, a scream that ran through my bones, a scream I will never forget,” said mother Breanna McMahon.
McMahon, who lives in Sooke with her husband Doug Choo and the couple’s three other children, is sharing the story of what happened in March 2017 to raise awareness of the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund and the Hometown Heroes Lottery, which raises money for burn fund programs.
Levi and his family were on vacation in Ucluelet when the accident occurred.
McMahon was still sleeping, and Levi was with his dad as he prepared breakfast. The gas fireplace was turned off after the room got too warm.
Suddenly, they heard screams, and Doug and Breanna rushed to their baby’s side.
McMahon scooped him off the floor, cuddled him, and then noticed the burns. She immediately ran his hands under cold water.
“His hands looked like a piece of chicken on a hot pan that had been left for 10 seconds and then pulled off. It was a clear indication of the severity of his burns. I had never seen anything like it,” she said.
The young family quickly got in the car and drove 40 kilometres to a hospital in Tofino, where Levi received pain medication and his hands were wrapped in a silver dressing.
After a few days, they returned to their home in the Lower Mainland. Within three weeks, Levi underwent skin graft surgery at B.C. Children’s Hospital to improve the movement in his hands. Subsequently, he had to wear casts, splints, and specially designed compression gloves.
“The fact that this happened to my child stuns me,” McMahon said. “We baby-proofed the hotel room but didn’t even think about the fireplace because ours at home never had hot glass.”
Now six years old, Levi still visits B.C. Children’s Hospital annually for treatment and may require additional surgery.
Each year, B.C. Children’s Hospital treats over 900 children for new burn injuries and follow-up care.
The Hometown Heroes Lottery ticket sales support Burn Fund programs, including the Home Away program for burn and trauma survivors, mental health support for burn survivors and firefighters, and the annual Burn Camp for young burn survivors.
Ticket sales also benefit the VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation, providing essential funds for specialized adult health services at VGH and UBC Hospital, G.F. Strong Rehab Centre, and Vancouver Community Health Services.
“The Burn Fund relies on the funds raised by the Hometown Heroes Lottery to support burn survivors across the province, both physically and emotionally. We can only do this thanks to the extreme generosity of British Columbians,” said Jeff Sauvé, executive director of the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund.
Since leaving the hospital, Levi and his family have utilized the Burn Fund’s referral program, seeking support ranging from counseling to multiple wound dressings.
“I never thought I would have to rely on their resources,” McMahon said. “The Burn Fund is an amazing organization. I cannot praise it enough.”