Rising from the flames

Young cowboys are back in the saddle

LESS than a year ago, the yard Xander enjoyed running around was a place of chaos as emergency workers descended on their home.

Their bonfire had exploded, leaving Xander, 3, and his younger brother Tanner, then 22 months old, with severe burns to their hands and face.

An aerosol can had somehow ended up in the flames, and an idyllic afternoon became a nightmare in seconds.

With the boys now on the road to recovery after stays at the Royal Children’s Hospital, mum Prue Matthison has praised the generosity of Victorians, who donated a record $23m to the hospital’s Good Friday Appeal.

“We’re absolutely blown away to find out how much the community has raised,” she said.

“To know we can go into that kind of setting and have access to fabulous surgeons and an amazing team, without the money that’sbeing funnelled into to that hospital through these charity drives, that wouldn’t be possible.’

Ms Matthieson said her sons’ recoveries were a testament to her quick thinking on the day, emergency services and the work of the Royal Children’s Hospital, home to the only pediatric specialist burns unit for Victoria and Tasmania.

Xander was flown to hospital while Tanner – who had been further away from the fire – was taken by road ambulance. Doctors rushed Xander into theatre to clean his wounds and placed him in a coma for a week and a half, while his younger brother – who they initially thought would also need skin grafts – was also in hospital for more than a week.

Ms Matthieson said the support from the RCH was “amazing”, with the “fabulous” intensive care nurses stringing up happy birthday banners when Xander, still in a coma, turned 3 in the days after the accident.

“(The hospital) is definitely a 10 out of 10 in my books,” she said. “We had a social worker that actually met me down in the emergency room and she stayed with us pretty much throughout his whole recovery.

“Offering support for not even just the kids but for us as well, if we needed counselling or if we just needed someone to sit with the kids while we ducked downstairs.”

Finally, after a month in hospital, Xander was well enough to return home to his brother Tanner, who had been discharged earlier.

Xander’s journey is not over yet and he will need to wear compression garments for up to 23 hours a day for the next two years to help the scars heal.

But thanks to the burns team, the bundles of energy is back home with his family, free to run around, pretending to be a cowboy with his brother, happy to just be a kid.

“He handles his treatment really well,” Ms Matthieson said.

“The burns team has just been amazing. They’ve been super helpful, super friendly.”

Originally published in the Herald Sun, Sunday, 9th, April, 2023
Words: Sarah Booth
Pictures: Mark Stewart

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