It was my third day. It was May 5, 2018. It was 5:30 p.m. I was working sauté and another cook who was hired the day after me was working grill next to me. The next few minutes feel like only segments of memory, like snapshots. I remember facing the stove and some one reaching in front of me to get a pan, I turned to look at tickets and begin to prepare my orders. I got plates setup. When I went back to the stove there was a cast iron pan smoking, I knew it could be bad if it was on the flame much longer. I reacted quickly to avoid a fire and grabbed the pan off the stove with a towel in hand. I didn’t know that the person who had put it there put too much oil, I didn’t know that the oil would spill on my hand and after I felt that oil hit the top of my hand I only saw snapshots. I saw my lead grab my arm and ask if I was ok, the next thing I knew I was across the kitchen and by the First Aide box trying to convince her I was ok. I remember sitting in the office waiting for the chefs to come and decide what they should do with me. I started telling jokes, I started to shake, I was embarrassed and not understanding the severity of what had just happened. I was told that burn cream isn’t going to do anything because the oil was frying my hand. I looked at it, it was white. One of the chefs got a bucket full of ice and water and told me to dunk my hand in it. I couldn’t feel the cold, I couldn’t feel anything on my hand anymore. I remember looking at the bucket and seeing particles of food crusted on the sides of it. I thought to myself about how my hand could get infected because that was unsanitary, and not wanting to say anything because I didn’t want to look weak. I remember telling my sous chef there is no crying in the kitchen, I held the tears back that I refused to cry. I was told to get into my executive chef’s car with this bucket of ice that my hand was dunked into to go to Urgent Care. The drive felt like forever, she was telling me about a burn she had, I didn’t care. There was a really young boy in urgent care coughing and his mom was holding him and I remember trying to keep a positive face so he wouldn’t get scared of my fried hand. They took me to a room and inspected my hand, I didn’t have the ice bucket, they said they would be right back. The feeling came back, not quickly, but it made time seem so slow and fast at the same time. I was alone, I let a few tears fall while my body started to shake again. I called my boyfriend and kept a good voice on so I wouldn’t worry him. He asked what I needed, I told him I don’t know, I’ll be ok and ill send him some photos.
My phone rang, my boyfriend said, babe that is really bad. How do I get to you? What’s going on, are you ok?? I cried a little more and I told him I’m trying to be tough and I would call him when I was done at urgent care. We got off the phone, I could hear it in his voice. I could hear that I should have been really upset, that I should have been crying my eyes out but I pushed through. The doctor came in and they had the look on their face that I felt from my boyfriend’s voice. He saw my few tears I let leak as he told me he couldn’t do anything for me and I need to go to the hospital because it was that bad. I took a breathe, he told me to take a breathe. I told him it was my third day at this job and that I didn’t want my chef to see me crying. He said ok, you got this, breathe. Deep breathe, get up, wipe my face and start walking out. My boyfriend called again in concern, I told him I was going to a hospital and that I didn’t know which one, I told him to call my parents but not to alarm them. I see my chef and she asked what the doctor said, I need to go to the hospital its too severe to treat here. She told me she had already dumped the bucket of ice water because she thought I’d be treated there. We found a hospital, we drove about twenty minutes. The feeling was rushing back into my hand like it was on fire. I had it in front of the air conditioning vent cause I didn’t know what else to do. She informed me that the other chefs had asked who put the pan there, he didn’t step up, he didn’t admit that he put a quarter cup of oil into a pan instead of only a tablespoon. I was so upset, I couldn’t believe that they didn’t take responsibility, I couldn’t believe she was telling me this right now as if waiting for me to blame myself. My hand was on fire and I just wanted to be alone and not alone at the same time. We finally made it to the emergency room and I stood in line with my hand on fire now and my body freezing. Still trying to play it cool and act like I am tough and I am gonna be fine. The nurse behind the counter saw my hand and called me over immediately he started taking my blood pressure and temperature. I feel like he could see in eyes that I was holding back tears. He said we need to get her to a room we can do intake there. The hallways felt like forever, everything looked new and empty like no one else knew this hospital existed except for me and my chef who was still by my side. It was 7 pm. My chef had been on the phone with another and I could tell she was getting antsy. I was getting hooked up to monitors and an IV, my phone was dying and my mom was calling me and my boyfriend was texting me and I just wanted to fall into a hole and never get out. My chef was watching me like I was going to say everything is fine. So, I did, I told her she can go back and I’ll be ok because I had nurses and doctors to take care of me now. She waited though, she wanted to see what the doctor would say. I don’t remember who the doctor was, but I remember her telling me that they wouldn’t be able to help me at the hospital because I have a significant burn and I need to be in a burn unit. I had the option of having some one come get me to take me to the burn unit or by ambulance. Ambulance, I knew that would be the most sterile way to go. I was able to tell my chef she can go and I’ll take it from here because now we have things figured out, it was 8:30 pm. She wished me luck and walked out the room, as soon as I couldn’t see her back I turned my head towards the nurse that was checking my vitals and I ugly cried. All the tears I had been holding back for the last three hours of pain came shooting out of my eyes. And all I could say was my career is over, I can’t believe this happened it was my third day, I have been doing this 15 years and this is how it ends. My mom kept texting and I told my boyfriend that I was going to be transferred by ambulance to the burn unit closer to our home. I talked to my mom on the phone and now I could hear it in her voice, the concern, the worry. I didn’t know how to tell her that I was ok through the tears that I was crying and the pain I wasn’t feeling anymore in my hand. I didn’t want pitty eyes, I was so angry. My phone was close to dying. It was 9:30 pm. I don’t remember what was on the TV. I could smell the cooked food smell on my clothes. It felt like forever waiting for the ambulance. Around 10 pm I was told that the ambulance was there and being sterilized. 10:30 pm and my boyfriend was trying to find out when he should head over because he was waiting for me to get into the ambulance. It was 11 pm, and I, at this point, thought the ambulance had left without me. I could hear the gurney coming down the hall. I felt hope. I texted my boyfriend that I was finally going by ambulance. They helped me get onto the gurney and we were headed there. We were on our way to the right place, the place where I’d be able to hug my boyfriend and take a breathe. I asked the paramedics if there was any way for them to charge the phone and they did. I felt like if it died he wouldn’t be able to find me and I would be alone and my hand wouldn’t stop burning and if I could just hug my boyfriend everything would be ok, but if my phone died how would he know to go to the trauma unit first. It was charging, a paramedic started asking me questions about my burn. He told me that I should have been airlifted when it had happened. It was almost midnight, it took almost an hour to get to the right hospital. We pulled into the ambulance bay and I saw my boyfriend out the back window. I saw him with this look on his face trying to see if I was ok. I wanted to scream to him that I was finally there but security made him go to the front of the hospital. My heart sank. I told the paramedic that I needed my boyfriend. The trauma nurse came out to help unload me. I told him my boyfriend is somewhere and I need him. The gurney hit the double doors and I was now in trauma. I told anyone that came to check on me that I needed my boyfriend and he is here and I need him now because this happened at 5:30 pm and it is now past midnight. One of the nurses found him and brought him to the back, he hugged me so tight, he had that look on his face that the sound of his voice had told me he had. In that moment, when he hugged me, I took a breathe.