I laughed as my little boy, Dougie, two, pretended to stir something in a saucepan on the kitchen floor.
‘Oooo what are you making?’ I asking, kneeling at his level and pretending to peer into the empty pot.’Soup!‘ he babbled, offering me a wooden spoonful of the make-believe meal.
‘Yummy,’ I smiled, taking a fake mouthful. Dougie never failed to make me smile and cheer me up with his silly games and gibberish.
It was a chilly Friday in March 2017, and Dougie had been with his nan for the day.
He had just been dropped off back at our home and while he was playing, I started cooking tea.
He could be quite a fussy eater, but absolutely loved his veg, so I set up the steamer and filled it up with broccoli and cauliflower.
‘Mmmm…’ my little boy squealed as he saw me making his dinner.
‘Do you want to speak to your nanny?’ I asked him, setting my phone on the table to FaceTime my mum.
My mum and I always joked that Dougie was like a little old man.
His mannerisms had us in stitches – so mum giggled at him whilst he chattered away as I pottered around the kitchen.
Like any other little boy, Dougie loved getting his hands on things he shouldn’t.
When he wasn’t glued to the TV watching Thomas the Tank Engine, or playing with his toy trains in the park, he was in the kitchen with me – ‘helping’ me cook.
My mum liked to help out as much as she could with Dougie – even if it just meant chatting with him over the phone.
Dougie was on the floor, playing with various kitchen utensils. He had got his hands on a ladle, and was using it to bang on the cabinets.
‘One, two, three. One, two, three,’ me and mum counted, making a steady beat for Dougie’s ‘music’.
He started bashing one of the cabinets extra hard, standing on his tiptoes at the counter, and it panicked me, so I turned around and shouted: ‘Dougie, no!’
He jumped, and from then on, everything seemed to go in slow motion.
The ladle he was holding got caught on the wire for the steamer, which was pushed back on the countertop.
As he pulled his hand away, the wire pulled too and the steamer came tipping down, pouring boiling hot water all over Dougie.
My mothers’ instinct jumped in, because despite the panic, I knew instantly what to do.
‘Mum, call 999!’ I screamed and grabbed Dougie.
He was shrieking in agony as I carried him upstairs, putting the plug in and filling the bath with cold water.
Dougie yelled and tears streamed down his face, as his skin turned bright crimson.
My mum – who only lived down the road – turned up alongside the ambulance.
Paramedics wrapped Dougie up in clingfilm to prevent infection, and that’s when I knew it was really bad.
We were rushed straight to hospital, while my mum stayed at home and cleaned up the mess in the kitchen.
In hospital, I gazed at my little lad, praying he would be ok.
It was torture. I wasn’t allowed to touch him in case I hurt his rapidly blistering skin.
‘You’ll be fine, shhh, shhh,’ I hushed Dougie’s cries whilst we waited for a consultant.
‘I’m afraid your son might have to have a skin graft,’ the doctor explained to me. ‘His nerve endings may be damaged and they can’t repair themselves.’
My heart was broken, and I was devastated when they told me that Dougie’s head might have to be shaved to stop infection spreading even further.
Dougie had a shock of angelic, golden curls, and the thought of them being shaved off was horrifying!
After various check-ups, Dougie’s dad Neil*, finally arrived, so I could rush off for a wee – I daren’t leave my little boy’s side and I was desperate.
‘He’ll be fine Nadia, don’t worry,’ Neil whispered.
Doctors ended up shaving a tiny part of Dougie’s hairline, meaning his silky locks were still mostly intact, much to my delight.
Some of Dougie’s burns had turned white and were refusing to heal.
‘I’m afraid we’re going to have to do a graft,’ the doctor told me, and I sobbed into my hands. I just wanted my baby to be better.
They wheeled him down to theatre and took skin from his thighs, using it to cover the wounds on his left wrist and chest.
And the nightmare wasn’t even over.
Every single day he was put under anaesthetic so they could clean his wounds without causing him too much pain.
Neil* and I sobbed as we took Dougie through to theatre.
Terrifyingly, I had to hold the mask over his face to put him to sleep.
The doctors reassured us that this was the best way to prevent scarring, and would help him heal a lot better, so I encouraged them to do whatever they needed.
Finally, doctors wrapped him in bandages and gave me some cooling gel to apply on his sore skin, but apart from that he was free to go home.
That night, we settled down in front of the TV, watching his favourite Peppa Pig, and I made him dinner.
‘I love you Dougie,’ I kissed him on the head as his little eyes flickered closed as he drifted off into a deep slumber.
Little did I know, my living hell was far from over.
In the night, Dougie pulled all of his bandages off his face.
I had no idea what I should do, so I rushed him straight back into hospital.
My happiness was overtaken by dread and fear once again.
A pink, pin-prickly rash had appeared on Dougie’s hands, and nurses said that his temperature was sky-high.
‘Hmm, that’s weird,’ one of them muttered, before rushing off and getting a doctor.
Dougie was diagnosed with Toxic Shock Syndrome.
‘TSS is a sudden infection, caused by bacteria,’ the doctor explained to me. ‘It can be fatal.’
I felt like I was living my nightmare.
My vision was swimming and I just nodded; my mouth had dried up and I didn’t know what to say.
When tests were done, they found Dougie’s blood pressure had hit a staggering 190 – he needed an oxygen mask to breathe, and had to undergo a blood plasma transfusion.
I just wanted to take the pain away from my little boy.
A doctor gravely told me: ‘If Dougie’s condition doesn’t improve within the next few hours, I’m afraid we’re going to have to take him to the Intensive Care Unit.’
I immediately burst into tears.
I felt like I was going to vomit, but a lovely nurse hugged me and made me a steaming hot cuppa to calm me down.
But miraculously, a few hours after the transfusion, my strong little fighter began to improve.
His temperature, oxygen and blood pressure started to return to normal – all signs that his body was starting to fight off the nasty infection.
One more week in the hospital, chock-a-block with check-ups and tests, and we were free.
This time, I had hope that things were going to get better.
Dougie had to attend day care every other day, but was finally discharged after the accident.
My little boy is back to his usual cheeky self now, and I couldn’t thank the doctors more.
One day, he spotted the vegetable steamer in the kitchen cupboard.
He looked shocked.
‘Mummy!’ he squealed, pointing at it in fear.
‘Don’t worry love!’ I cooed. ‘Do you want to help mummy get rid of Mr Steamer?’
He nodded, and together we drove the steamer to the dump.
It made him feel a lot better!
He has a few scars on his chest and shoulder, but aside from that, Dougie is back to his mischievous self, and I couldn’t be happier.