By Liana Jacob
THIS STUDENT’S midnight pasta snack turned into a living nightmare after she spilled boiling hot water onto her body causing third-degree burns.
Literature student, Sonia Cooper (21), from Toulouse, France, was at a friend’s house in August 2017, when they decided to cook some pasta at 4am that morning.
While the water was boiling on the stove, Sonia and her friend fell asleep and when she woke up suddenly, she remembered about the pasta cooking and ran to turn the stove off in a panic but slipped.
She tried to get up from the floor and when she leaned on the pot handle, still half asleep, the pot-full of boiling water and pasta fell on her, scolding her chest.
Her friend looked at her in shock and desperately called emergency services, after an hour of crying and shouting from the pain under a cold shower, the ambulance arrived and took her to the hospital.
She spent one-month in hospital and two-months at a rehabilitation centre, 15 per cent of Sonia’s body had been burnt from the accident; with second and third degree burns on her chest, arms and part of her neck.
She ended up having skin graft surgeries, she had to wear a pressure garment for a year and in July 2018 she had to put two skin expanders, a common breast reconstruction technique that expands the breast skin and muscle, on her back.
“I don’t usually expose my scars outside because of the sun, but when I do, people always stare at my chest,” Sonia said.
“I was at one of my friend’s house; it was four in the morning and we were hungry, so I decided to make some pasta. I fell asleep while the pasta was boiling and my friend too,” Sonia said.
“I woke up suddenly and ran to turn off the stove, but I slipped and when I tried to get up from the floor I leaned on the pot handle (I was still half asleep).
“The pot fell on me with the boiling water, pasta and all the contents in it. My friend looked at me in shock, but she called the emergency number and I waited for one-hour crying and shouting because of the pain while I was under the cold shower until the ambulance arrived.
“After that, I spent three-months hospitalised, one in a hospital where I had many surgeries including skin grafts and two other months in a rehabilitation centre because I couldn’t move my left arm.
“The accident wasn’t that long ago, but at the beginning it was a little bit weird because of the scars and all the medical aspects like the physiotherapy, appointments with the surgeon and nurses, the pressure garment, etc. I just had to get used to it.
“The time I was in the hospital was very hard, especially the first month. I was unable to get up, I felt very lonely even if my friends and family were coming to visit me. I just wanted to give up on life.
“Then in the rehabilitation centre I saw more people injured like me. 40 percent or 80 percent of their bodies were burnt, and this made me realise how lucky I was.
“I had to wear a pressure garment for a year and take care of my scars. The sun was the enemy of my skin, so I had to put a lot of sunscreen on my face and neck and covered all of my scars with medical clothes.
“I had another surgery in July 2018 to put two skin expanders on my back. Those expanders are used to grow the elasticity of the skin.
“They will inflate them during a four-month period and then they will take the skin off my back to put it on my chest, like a skin graft but in a different way to make the scars less visible in the future.
“I haven’t finished my recovery yet; I’m in the middle of the inflation of the expanders. But recently I had a complication; one of my skin expanders has deflated so I need another surgery to change the prosthetics.”
Sonia, who is originally from Spain, explains the toughest moments including the insecurity she felt and how she has learnt to love her body since the accident.
“The hardest thing for me was the nights in the hospital; knowing I couldn’t go anywhere, feeling pain and feeling alone,” she said.
“I also had many anxiety attacks about all this and because of my scars. At the beginning I really hated my chest, it took me time to accept and embrace my body.
“My family and friends were shocked to see me in a hospital with so many bandages and half of my face burnt.
“I received a lot of messages from my friends and from people I barely know, who told me that I was very strong and sent me love and courage.
“Someone already asked me if my scars were a tattoo. But I don’t really care because I don’t find my scars ugly.
“But with the expanders it’s different. I really hate to have these bags on my back, so I always wear large t-shirts, so people don’t notice them.
“To those fellow burn survivors, you are warriors. If you went through this, you can get through anything.”