April 12, 2021
From the Perspective of a Mother
The Francis family knows that the road to healing after a burn injury can be full of difficulties. Here, Teaira Francis recounts her experience since her son’s injury in 2019:
Ya’a’teeh! I am Teaira Francis. I am of the Red House People Clan. I am from Chinle, AZ. My family and I are Dine/Navajos from the Navajo Nation. On March 6, 2019, our youngest son, Arron C. Francis was 5 months young when he suffered burn injuries from falling out of his baby swing and onto a steam humidifier on the floor nearby. I was at work at the time, but I rushed home immediately in time to fly out with baby Arron by helicopter to Arizona Burn Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Our son suffered 3rd to 4th degree burns on his left hand, left wrist, inner left arm, left upper torso (chest/abdominal area), and smaller burns on his lower left cheek. The burns covered 19% of his skin/body.
My husband, Arron Francis and I, worked in the hospital setting as housekeepers for over 8 years, but we have never had experience in burn units or a burn hospital. I remember the speed and the urgency of the various burn center team members that assembled in the ICU treatment room over my son. I remember hearing the low but gradual crying of my son from the hallway where I waited on him. All I could do was stay close to God in sharing my hopes and my thoughts, and keep in remembrance other prayers and other answered prayers that had happened already in my life.
It wasn’t until the next day or two when I got to see my son’s wounds/burn areas when the burn team took baby Arron into the treatment room for dressing change and debridement. My heart sank very low. Now, I cried when I heard my baby cry because I understood just a little (because I’ve never experience major burns on my own skin) of the pain he was going through. The mixed emotions I had – trying to sort out the negative inner monolog and the positive one – all set in, on and off throughout our stay. I remember a lot of waiting, a lot of time that demanded patience, and a lot of stress. Baby Arron was awake and feeling the pain, hating the feeding tube, IV lines, sticky tabs for lines that track other vitals, and the wound wrappings/bandages and would frequently cry. That was too much crying for any baby his age. That was too much trauma for any child, mother, father or family to have to go through.
Normalcy left us for a while. Having a little less experience with burn units or patients suffering from major burns when this incident first happened, we were really caught off guard. Initially I thought, “at least Sonny is here in the best place he can be right now. We should be headed back home in a week or two…” We were there for a little over 4 months and during that time, the cook of the house and the baby of our family were 290 miles, about 5 hours away from home. My husband and our two older girls: Tyra, 10 and Amy, 8 at the time, were home without us. We are a single income home, and I didn’t step foot back into work the whole duration of baby Arron first being admitted into Arizona Burn Center. Our income tax return from 2018 had to be stretched out to carry us thru part of the months. My leave hours from work were completely exhausted. I had to apply for advance sick leave to cover my absence from work and our income needs (which I really did not want to do, but we needed it). I applied for food stamps and general assistance, but did not get approved. At least the application for medical assistance got approved. My husband would do his best to come out to visit baby Arron and I, to give me some time outside the hospital when he stepped in so I could shower up at the motel or do our laundry. I remember my hopeful optimism around this situation soon turned to hopelessness and I got depressed and anxious with the goal of discharge moving further and further away. It gets lonely in that hospital room.
I remember Kelsey from the Arizona Burn Foundation stopping in and talking with me. There was too much going on the first time we met and I was meeting a lot of people working with my son’s care, I had assumed she was a counselor or well being nurse there to assist in emotional support for the family members or something of that sort. I was really impressed with the quick response to have someone from the team check up on me while I assumed she was an employee of the hospital. Then a few days later she came back again and stayed with me, she just let me talk about more of what was going on. It wasn’t until the third time we met and she repeated that she was from the Arizona Burn Foundation that I realized that the Arizona Burn Foundation is not the Arizona Burn Center program, but an entity dedicated to helping burn survivors and their families through traumatic times – including providing lodging when we had to return to the hospital. I was, and still am, truly moved to tears with the assistance we get from the Arizona Burn Foundation. I was still breastfeeding my son when he was first admitted into the burn center, so luckily the meals in the hospital covered me. After he turned one years old and I was no longer breastfeeding, we really needed money for food during while Arron was admitted for another surgery and the Arizona Burn Foundation provided me some meal vouchers to get food here in the hospital. This past Christmas, all my children were given a gift each. Kelsey forwarded the application to me, I filled it out, and we drove out to Flagstaff, AZ to pick those gifts up. In the Holiday card we got from the Arizona Burn Foundation, they included gift cards for us too and that covered the gas to drive out to pick up the gifts.
Today, my son Arron is now 2 ½ years old. Last week he went thru skin laser surgery and another surgery on the left arm that required donor skin from another part of his body. Baby Arron had a follow up appointment where he was sedated to remove the stitches/staples from the recent surgery on his left arm and it took a while for him to wake up after the sedation. The Arizona Burn Foundation continues to help us with the nights in the motel as we live almost 300 miles away – a service that is especially needed when we have snowy weather on the route to and from our home and the Arizona Burn Center. Lately, I’ve attended two monthly Support Group meetings that are hosted by the Arizona Burn Foundation and it’s still so surprising to hear similar new burn survivors and their families going through their journey of healing. I am still praying through this whole situation for full recovery for my son and the new families that are going through this as well. I remember one doctor from the Arizona Burn Center ICU unit telling me, “these are wounds, and even burn wounds heal…” those words still echo in my heart whenever my son has to go thru another surgery. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)
Baby Arron and his family still have a long journey of healing ahead of them and ABF will continue to provide support in whatever way necessary!