'We're warning anaesthetists to watch for a paediatric bed': Consultant plastic surgeon issues warning ahead of Bonna night

Consultant Plastic Surgeon at the Bon Secours Hospital Cork, Ann McKenna revealed that she is seeing children every year between one and a half and three years old seriously injured on Bonfire Night.
'We're warning anaesthetists to watch for a paediatric bed': Consultant plastic surgeon issues warning ahead of Bonna night

A bonfire at Errigal Heights in the Glen last year. Photo: Damian Coleman

A CONSULTANT plastic surgeon described her horrific experiences treating toddlers who have fallen into bonfires as many Cork frontline workers prepare for their busiest night of the year.

Consultant Plastic Surgeon at the Bon Secours Hospital Cork, Ann McKenna revealed that she is seeing children every year between one and a half and three years old seriously injured on Bonfire Night.

Bonfire Night, known to many Corkonians as Bonna Night, is celebrated on June 23 and involves communities lighting bonfires across the city.

Ms McKenna referred to one little girl who found herself in serious danger after trying to pull her sister out of a fire. The family was unable to speak English hindering their ability to call an ambulance.

Ms McKenna recalled the heart-breaking case.

"The young girl tripped and fell into the bonfire," she explained. 

"When she was unable to get out her sister tried to help but her clothes caught fire. Their parents were knocking on every door distraught and in search of help but nobody was able to understand them. Those children were in hospital for three months."

She highlighted the events leading up to serious injuries.

"All it takes is for a toddler to wriggle out of their parent's arms for a second. While toddlers fall teenagers tend to be pushed - more so when there is alcohol involved. When adults sustain burns it's usually from trying to save someone else."

The consultant is preparing for a number of hospital admissions related to Bonfire Night.

"We are just waiting and warning anaesthetists to keep an eye out for a paediatric bed. This means that it won't be a big fright for them when one is required."

Injuries the frontline worker sees resulting from Bonfire Night can take many forms.

"We've seen people who have become pinned by burning pallets that have fallen on them. The severity of the burn depends on the length of time you are in contact with the heat and the part of the bonfire it occurs."

She acknowledged the emotional toll for children living with facial differences. 

"Even though your face is the thing that is least relevant to you it is the first thing that people see. Children have to live with the stigma for the rest of their lives. It's normally between the ages of eight and 10 that children become aware and are presented with questions that they aren't prepared to answer."

She described the heartbreak of working with children struggling with life-changing injuries.

"Children have no self-pity which makes them wonderful to deal with. However, it can be emotionally challenging to treat a child affected like because you can see how it's going to affect the rest of their life."

Ms McKenna is pleading with people not to take risks at bonfire events tonight.

"Immediate cooling is the only thing that can reduce the burn. Anything that happens in hospital is merely to manage the pain dressings or surgeries. In an ideal world there would be no bonfire night. However, in order to reduce injuries, I would suggest that people keep fire blankets as well as buckets of sand and water as a precautionary measure."

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