Little Anna - Child Abuse

In the world of EMS, we see our fair share of system abuse. This call, however, was a type of abuse that is usually behind closed doors. The doors into Little Anna's life were flung open on this particular morning. This is the story of Anna, my first child abuse patient. Nurses Announcements Archive Article

Little Anna - Child Abuse

We had just backed into the station and set the airbrake after running our fourth "sick person" to the hospital since our shift started five hours ago. The pager went off again. My partner, Kevin, and I looked at each other, rolled our eyes, and said, "here we go again!" The dispatcher came over the radio-"Medic 2 respond for the four year old burn patient at 3626 Peachtree Avenue." My heart sank as Kevin threw the ambulance into drive. We looked at each other again, only this time we weren't joking. We knew what we were in for.

The fire engine had arrived first. Kevin and I grabbed our bags and head inside. Upstairs in a dimly lit bedroom was Anna lying on the bed on her stomach-no clothes on, and a room full of strangers-the firefighters from the engine. I looked down. Huge blisters. The skin on her buttocks and feet peeling off in sheets. Purple welts across her back, and bruises of every color in the rainbow. I bent down to Anna's face, stroked her hair, and told her "My name is Mandy. I'm here to take care of you." Her big, distant brown eyes stared up at me. Not a tear had been shed from them.

The lady in the corner stepped forward. She introduced herself as the child's foster mother. She calmly ran through the events stating that she had been running the water in the tub so that Anna could take a bath. She had stepped out of the bathroom, and Anna climbed in. When she reentered the bathroom, Anna was sitting in the bathtub and said she had a "boo-boo." The boo-boos were the burns.

We wrapped Anna up in our burn sheets, and carried her out to the ambulance. She laid on the stretcher on her stomach and facing the cabinets. I asked her what happened today, not sure I could stomach her answer. A little voice-almost a whisper, said, "Mommy beat me. Then she put me in the bathtub." I said the only thing that came to my mind-"I will keep you safe until we get to the hospital, and then all the doctors and nurses will keep you safe there." Anna stared at the cabinets, and shook her little head "no" when I asked her if she had any pain.

Kevin and I estimated 12-15% total body surface area of second and third degree burns.

Anna's foster mother got into the back of the ambulance, and we began our trek across the city to the regional pediatric burn center. Neither one made eye contact or even acknowledged each other's presence.

When we arrived at the hospital, Anna's foster mother was escorted to another room while Anna "was settled in." Anna was met by doctors and nurses who specialize in burns as well as the city's child abuse team. The police were already en route to the scene to take custody of Anna's brother and sister who were also in foster care with her.

Kevin and I watched as Anna was sedated and debrieded. We watched in horror as more and more of her beautiful skin was sloughed off, and burnt tissue exposed. The extreme sadness that I felt for Anna was quickly getting overrun by anger towards her foster mother. It was time to leave. I had fulfilled my responsibilities to Anna. She was safe now.

My hope is that one day little Anna's big brown eyes will be full of life, and not hollow like they were when I met her. Let her feel peace knowing that many people shared in her pain that day. She probably won't remember me, but I will never forget her.

**All identifying information (names, medic number, address, etc.) have been changed to protect privacy.

Critical Care Transport Nurse and Paramedic

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Specializes in ED, ICU, Education.

That's tough. Thanks for what you guys do.