Off-Duty Firefighters Jump Into Action


A boy smiling next to a dog

Ayden is a 10-year-old boy who has a long and diverse set of interests. He loves playing drums, skiing, golfing, swim team, playing baseball, football, basketball and almost every other sport. He also loves hanging out with his friends, a close-knit group he’s known since he was little. Today Ayden is slowly getting back into all the activities he loves, following a terrifying accident several months ago.

This past spring Ayden was at a cookout with his family. Ayden’s dad Ravin, who is a chef, was volunteering his time, cooking for the big event. As Ayden was standing near his dad and the cooking station, a sudden gust of strong wind blew a pop-up shade tent into the cooking station, causing boiling water and hot food to spill onto Ayden’s legs and feet.

According to Ayden’s mom Ashlee, two very important details made that moment less tragic for Ayden. Firstly, Ayden was wearing long pants and socks that afternoon. Ayden’s pants and socks offered some protection from the boiling water. Secondly, four off-duty firefighters had arrived, just minutes before the accident.

A boy and a woman petting a dog

The firefighters immediately sprang into action. One quickly disinfected the large kitchen sink so they could treat Ayden’s burns with water, another called for help, and the others grabbed their first-aid supplies. The team worked quickly to triage Ayden’s burns with bandages and water. At that point Ayden’s parents faced a very difficult choice. They could transport Ayden by ambulance to the nearest emergency room, in Yolo County, which wasn’t a world-class burn facility. Or they could transport Ayden themselves to the UC Davis emergency room, which was closer to home in Sacramento and, more importantly, close to Shriners Hospitals for Children – Northern California.

“The firefighters strongly recommended that Ayden go to Shriners,” said Ashlee. “They knew that Shriners specialized in pediatric burn care, and they all told us we must go there.”

Ashlee and Ravin put Ayden in the family car and raced to Sacramento. They took Ayden to the UC Davis emergency room, where doctors treated his pain and initiated his transfer to Shriners. That evening the Shriners burn team would treat Ayden for second and third degree burns to 65 percent of his right leg and 80 percent of his left foot.

According to Ashlee, those first days in the hospital were extremely difficult for Ayden, but the Shriners doctors and nurses did many things to help make Ayden more comfortable. Notably, the nurses quickly realized that Ayden was exhibiting symptoms of PTSD from the accident, and that the sound of running water during Ayden’s dressing changes triggered severe anxiety. Ayden’s nurses modified his dressing changes. Rather than use running water to clean his burn wounds, they prepared buckets of clean water.

“Everyone from the doctors, nurses, and Child Life staff did everything they could to make Ayden feel as comfortable as possible,” said Ashlee. “The nurses gave him a say in how his dressing changes would happen. The Child Life staff made special fidget spinners to distract him. Yogo the Dog would come visit Ayden when we asked for him. All those details really made a big difference. And perhaps even most helpful was the consistency in staff. He learned to trust his nurses because he was consistently cared for by the same people.”

Ayden was discharged from the hospital after several days and would continue out-patient burn care for months following his injury. He would also undergo skin graft surgery for his third-degree burns. According to Ashlee, the consistency in Ayden’s care team continued even after Ayden was discharged from the hospital.

“Even when we came to the out-patient clinic for dressing changes, it was always very comforting to Ayden that the same nurses, therapists, and Child Life staff would be there for him, consistently, at every visit. He learned to trust them, and they helped him overcome his fears of treatment.”

Ayden using a drum set

Today Ayden’s prognosis is excellent. He continues to use custom-fitted leg braces, provided by Shriners, to help him wear shoes comfortably. He continues to be followed by his burn care team. He is easing back into all his favorite activities, and hopes to get back on skis someday soon.

Ashlee counts her blessings when she thinks about Ayden’s injury. She is very thankful to see her son doing so well, physically and emotionally. She is thankful for several things that went right that day – the off duty firefighters, the cooler weather than made Ayden wear pants that day, and the firefighters recommending she go to Shriners.

“It was such a difficult injury,” said Ashlee. “But we are so fortunate that many other things went right for us that day, including those four amazing firefighters… and them telling us to go to Shriners.”