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Fast-acting ED staff helps boy with coffee burn

December 11, 2018

Tanya comforts her 3-year-old son Alec in the NCH ED.

Sunday mornings are normally a time of rest and relaxation for the Citron family who lives in Arlington Heights.

“I was sleeping in and my husband Jon was in his office drinking coffee,” reflects Tanya, the mother of 3-year-old Alec. “Alec was sitting on Jon’s lap. Jon said, ‘Daddy needs more coffee.’”

That’s all it took for the helpful young child to take off running toward the kitchen where he promptly pulled down a heavy, glass carafe filled with hot coffee. It broke against the granite counter, shattering and spilling onto his chest and arm.

Tanya woke up to screaming. She bolted out of bed, ran to the kitchen and saw Jon taking Alec’s pajama top off.

“It was a heart-wrenching scream and I was trying to calm him down,” Tanya says. “He was scared and in pain.”

At the request of their Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH) Medical Group Pediatrician George Goodlow, M.D., the three immediately headed for the NCH Emergency Department. It was difficult buckling Alec into his car seat because of his chest. About three inches of skin was gone from his belly and chest, and his arm was red with some bubbling areas.

George Goodlow, M.D.

“Within minutes, they took us back to a bed in the emergency department,” Tanya says.

That’s when Alec began crying, half out of fear, half out of pain.

“Three nurses came in and put in an IV, giving him morphine for the pain,” Tanya says. “That calmed him down. It’s stressful and scary and you’re not sure what is going to happen, but everything the nurses did put us at ease.”

While he was being bandaged, Tanya noticed that Dr. Goodlow suddenly appeared in the doorway.

“He said, ‘this is my patient and he deserves the best,’” Tanya says. “That made us feel so good that he showed up on a Sunday morning in the ED to see us.”

At that point, physicians and nurses needed to determine if Alec’s burns were severe enough to warrant a visit to the Loyola Burn Center in Chicago. While photographing his burns, the staff distracted Alec.

“It made all the difference,” Tanya says. “The nurses brought things like a blanket, stickers, food and water. It made us feel comfortable, important and cared for.”

Alec had some second degree burns on his chest and wrist, but he didn’t have third degree burns so he was bandaged and discharged.

Jon, Alec and Tanya Citron

As an employee at NCH for seven years, Tanya, an operations manager, found herself on the other side of things – being served instead of serving. She recognized a lot of the nurses while in the ED, pointing out to her son that some of the nurses were Daisy Award winners.

“I told Alec, ‘these are nurses with super powers because they have the Daisy on their badge,’” she recalls.

Dr. Goodlow, who happened to be on vacation that week, saw Alec for a follow-up visit.

“He was off that whole week, but he came in especially to see us,” Tanya says. “We had three follow-up visits and now Alec is completely healed.”

An unfortunate reality

Jon Garlovsky, D.O.

When kids become tall enough to reach countertops, burns are a fairly common occurrence, according to NCH Emergency Medicine Physician Jon Garlovsky, D.O.

“The majority of minor burns will heal up on children without severe consequences or even scarring,” Dr. Garlovsky says. “But if it’s a second degree burn, they are very painful, so the first thing we do is administer pain medicine because that will make the rest of the process much more comfortable for the child and family.”

For Alec, who experienced his burns a couple of months ago, the only noticeable reminder is a slight discoloration at the site. Other than that, he is back to his normal self, helping his Daddy with cooking, shoveling and trips to the store.

“Although,” Tanya adds, “he does not like hot coffee and when he sees a pot, he stays away.”

The Citrons recently moved to Arlington Heights and they are glad they did because it put them right in the center of NCH’s primary service area.

“I tell my neighbors about this hospital and keep promoting it,” Tanya says. “It’s a good place to work, and I feel a lot of pride that we are an independent hospital in the community. I’m invested and I plan to retire from this hospital. I don’t want to go anywhere else.”

Northwest Community Healthcare treats more than 76,000 people annually in its state-of-the-art Level II Trauma Center which is staffed by board-certified emergency medicine physicians.

If you are or your child is experiencing a life-threatening emergency, call 911. If you are able to drive to the hospital, follow the red signs on campus to the ED entrance at 800 W. Central Road in Arlington Heights.

Learn more about emergency care at NCH.

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