Before May 23, 2017, Six-year old Sydney was surrounded by caring family and close-knit community. After that day, she would embark on a difficult journey that would demonstrate the true power of community, far beyond the local neighborhood.
Sydney and her family were enjoying a relaxing day in their home near Kingston, Jamaica, when an accidental flash burn caused severe injury to nearly 20 percent of her body on the torso and back.
Her mother Kerry-Ann immediately took her to the emergency room at University Hospital of the West Indies, a teaching hospital Kerry-Ann emphasizes is lacking in resources, not skill. As an example, the pediatric plastic surgeons understood the wounds needed to be excised, but the hospital had neither Sydney’s O negative type blood nor the temporary skin to cover the wounds. So Kerry-Ann’s teenage daughter used social media to organize a blood drive, yielding dozens of pints of blood, enough to help Sydney as well as many other patients in the hospital. Meanwhile she and her husband were sent into town to purchase temporary skin with their own funds, a “surreal” experience, Kerry-Ann admitted.
More than a week and two surgeries later, Sydney was stable, but not improving. “Her spirit was gone,” said Kerry-Ann. Friends encouraged her to bring Sydney to the states for treatment. After hearing the name “Shriners” mentioned multiple times, Kerry-Ann finally called. When she reached Amanda, the charge nurse at Shriners Hospital for Children—Cincinnati, she felt something she hadn’t experienced since the incident occurred: hope. “Amanda was genuine; warm and interested, without knowing us from jack fruit,” Kerry-Ann said. “She made me feel like it was going to be OK.”
Kerry-Ann and Sydney arrived at Cincinnati Shriners Hospital at 3:00 a.m. on June 17. “The nurses just swooped In with this elaborate ‘dance’, removing dressings and wrapping wounds, all while distracting and reassuring Sydney. It was amazing.”
Sydney’s father arrived shortly after. Beyond the exceptional care and treatment, Kerry-Ann said what impressed them most was the family-centered care they received at Cincinnati Shriners Hospital. “When Sydney went into surgery one evening, the nurses said, ‘why don’t you two go out and get some dinner? Sydney is here and we’ll take good care of her while you’re gone. That was such a gift; it gave us time to breathe and regroup.”
Ten days later when Sydney’s grandmother visited Cincinnati, Kerry-Ann said, “She couldn’t believe what she was seeing! This was a completely different child from the one who left Jamaica. Every day since we arrived [at Cincinnati Shriners Hospital] Sydney was moving from strength to strength.”
Sydney celebrated her seventh birthday while at the hospital. The staff held a party in her honor, complete with balloons and presents. Here, 41 days after the incident, she was bright and energetic, a reflection of the care and expert treatment she received from the staff of Cincinnati Shriners Hospital. When recalling the journey, Kerry-Ann connects their experience to something she always tells her children, “Live good with people,” meaning treat everyone, from the street sweeper to the executive with the same level of respect. “Life changes in an instant. Everyone you meet can make a difference.”