Little battler: Toddler's hands burnt by fire

By Katee Shanks of the Whakatane News -
Brett Oosthuizen, with his Mum Mandy, suffered third-degree burns from the family fireplace. Photo / Katee Shanks
Brett Oosthuizen, with his Mum Mandy, suffered third-degree burns from the family fireplace. Photo / Katee Shanks

Little Brett Oosthuizen has been nicknamed The Great White by staff at Waikato Hospital.

His dad Marius said it is because they think his youngest son looks like a boxer with both of his hands swaddled in bandages.

However, Marius and his wife Mandy know the horror under the white gloves.

At the request of Brett's plastic surgeon, the Oosthuizen family have agreed to share their story in the hope that no other family ever has to be in the same situation.

On April 15 1-year-old Brett and his mum were at their Otakiri home while Brett's two older brothers were at school and kindergarten, and dad was out.

"I had the fire going and was playing with Brett in the lounge," Mrs Oosthuizen said. "It wasn't the first time the fire had been going but we honestly believed we had such a clever little chap.

If he looked at the fire or got close to it we said no and he lost interest."

But on this day the toddler's interest was more than piqued, and while his mother left the room for mere seconds, there was no one to say no.

"I heard this funny little cry and rushed back into the living room. Brett had his hands held out in front of him and all I could see were white patches."

After rushing her son to running water, Mrs Oosthuizen was about to apply Burn Aid when she thought it might be best to first call a doctor. "I phoned the Tarawera Medical Centre and was told not to put anything on the burns."

Once at the centre, the doctor knew immediately Brett's burns were deep skin burns and he was referred to Whakatane Hospital. There, photos were taken of the injuries and sent to a plastic surgeon at Waikato Hospital.

"We were taken to Waikato that night and stayed for two weeks."

Mrs Oosthuizen said it was Brett's reaction to the injury that kept her calm during that first day.

"He knew something was up with his hands but he didn't scream or cry at all."

Since then Brett has had a number of surgeries including doctor's cutting away most of the skin on both hands because the burns were so deep. Skin grafts are continuing.

"When we were thanking our plastic surgeon for his incredible work and support, he asked that we let people know about what happened to Brett so they can make sure it doesn't happen in their own homes."

The Oosthuizen fire now has a guard to prevent further mishaps. And Brett is managing nicely with his bandaged hands.

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