Toddler airlifted with severe burns after tea accident as parents recount harrowing ordeal

Jenson still wears a compression top to help with scarring
-Credit: (Image: Collect/PA Real Life)


A mum has described the terrifying moment her toddler son had to be airlifted to hospital after accidentally pouring a cup of hot tea over himself. Michelle Downes, 38, immediately dialled 999 when her two year old son Jenson was scalded by boiling water.

Jenson was flown to Royal Manchester Children's Hospital where he underwent a skin graft operation. The procedure left him with bandages covering his entire upper body, making him look "like a mummy".

The incident occurred when Jenson's father, Jamie, momentarily turned his back to dispose of a used tea bag at their Cheshire home on May 17 last year. In that brief moment, little Jenson managed to reach up to the counter and pull down the mug, causing the hot liquid to spill all over him.

"[Jamie] literally just turned his back, and then the next thing you heard was a smash of a cup, and then a scream," Michelle recounted to PA Real Life. "I was upstairs, so I didn't actually see it happen, but I heard it."

"Initially, I thought I'd left a knife on the side because I just cooked their dinner... I didn't hear the smashing, I just heard the scream then I ran downstairs and by Jamie's voice knew something serious.", reports the Manchester Evening News.

"I walked in and he was soaking wet but screaming, my eldest was screaming as well...it's a parents' worst nightmare and you never think something like this could happen to you but it can. His skin looked like a tomato when it's boiled all his skin was bright red and peeling off."

Jamie, a 45-year-old chimney sweep, acted swiftly by placing Jenson in the sink for a cool water bath to alleviate the burn. Michelle called 999, and the operator guided her through the process, advising her to shower Jenson with lukewarm water.

Michelle, who shares another son, seven year old Maddox, with her husband Jamie, recounted: "I had to pretend that [Jenson] wasn't my son and he was just someone at work that's burned themselves badly, so I just got on with it and was quite calm. I could have been shocked... even though I was panicking inside, I tried to stay calm. Whereas my husband was very much panicking and was really upset and distraught."

In less than half an hour, the North West Air Ambulance Charity dispatched a helicopter to the family's residence in No Man's Heath, bringing advanced pain relief and fluids. Michelle expressed her relief: "It was a sigh of relief really when they came in, because you just felt like you weren't on your own and it made you feel calm," she said.

"They took control of the situation and it felt like everything was going to be okay."

At the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, it was confirmed that Jenson had sustained burns to his right side and face.

The medical team started by cleansing his injuries and wrapping him from waist upwards, making him resemble a mummy. Jenson then underwent surgery for a skin graft, with skin taken from his right thigh to his right shoulder, and he remained bandaged for the next four weeks.

"I just broke down because you couldn't see his face he had tape all around his head, and he had bandages all on his face, even though it wasn't burned badly, he still needed them," Michelle said. It just didn't look like him he couldn't show any facial expressions, he couldn't do anything.

I think in a way he got used to it each day, but he found it hard... every time the door opened, he tried to make a run for it every time. "Now three years old, Jenson still has to wear a compression top for 22 hours a day to decrease the severity of the scarring, more than one year on from the ordeal. One of the first things Michelle and her husband did when arriving home was re-arrange their kitchen to prevent any other accidents."

Nothing's near the sides, we've moved the kettle to the furthest point in the kitchen and we don't let him in the kitchen on his own," Michelle said. "We now don't use the front two stoves on the hob because we're worried about him obviously reaching and pulling a saucepan down.

""It's made us more panicky as soon as he runs into the kitchen, I'm like 'Jamie, go and get him. ' It's definitely made us a bit more jumpy, more cautious.

"Michelle thinks since the accident Jenson has become more sensitive to touch. She says her son has to be held down to have his haircut and has his toenails cut in his sleep."

I just think that he doesn't like being enclosed or forced to be in a position that he doesn't want to be," she explained. "Now, getting his haircut, we have to pin him down and it's traumatic for him and traumatic for us but it has to be done. ""We have to cut his toenails at night when he's asleep.

So it's all those things that you never think of really. He's also a nightmare with medication too even with a cold we struggle to give him anything because of him having to take so much in hospital.

"As time passes, the visibility of his skin graft is reducing, and Michelle is hopeful it won't affect him in the long term. "It's faded quite a bit now already and it's just the same colour as his skin," she remarked."

So the skin actually doesn't look any different apart from it being wrinkly. You wouldn't really know looking at it at school, the only time that you might see is PE but I think by the time he gets to that age it will be less noticeable."