REAL LIFE

Mum’s warning after daughter electrocuted by a fan

Mandy's little girl was trying to help when she suffered electric burns

Mandy Sibaly, 33, from Tuart Hill, WA, was cooking dinner when she heard her daughter Nevaeh scream.

Here she tells her story in her own words.

A single mum, I juggled two hospitality jobs as well as caring for my girls Nevaeh, then 10, and Phoenix, two, and my boy D’Artagnan, three.

When my partner and I separated a few years ago, Nevaeh was eager to help out, despite her young age.

‘How can I help with dinner, Mum?’ she’d ask. The leader of the pack, as she made slime or created obstacle courses using cardboard boxes and cushions, my little ones watched wide-eyed.

I heard a harrowing scream from Nevaeh’s bedroom

A clever cookie, Nevaeh would also teach us things like division when she arrived home from school.

One evening in April, my youngest two watched movies in the lounge room while Nevaeh helped me clean the house. My mind was racing as I had a number of shifts ahead.

While cooking dinner, Nevaeh came up to me with an electric tower fan. ‘It’s getting cooler, darling. You can pop that in the laundry,’ I said.

Mandy, D'Artagnan, Nevaeh and Phoenix
Mandy, D’Artagnan, Nevaeh and Phoenix (Credit: Supplied)

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Nevaeh accidentally drop the fan as my younger two followed her. Not thinking anything of it, I continued chopping vegies and mentally ticking off lists.

Moments later, I heard a harrowing scream from Nevaeh’s bedroom.

Scared, I dropped everything and ran to her. As I reached the hallway, I could smell burnt hair.

Then I saw her standing there in fright, D’Artagnan and Phoenix next to her.

‘I was electrocuted!’ she panted, her body shaking.

My stomach flipped. She knelt down, and let out another great scream, her face buried into the floor. My girl was in complete panic.

It should have been under cold water for 20 minutes

‘How did it happen?’ I asked, squatting down.

To my horror I saw her index fingers were singed, the melted flesh bubbling.

Luckily, the shock seemed to be stopping her from feeling the pain. She explained how the top cover dislodged when she dropped the fan, causing the button panel to fall out.

After unscrewing the lid with a knife, she’d plugged in the fan to see if it still worked.

‘When I tried putting the lid back on, my fingers were drawn in by electricity,’ she explained. ‘I was electrocuted for about 15 seconds until I could pull away.’

She said that her siblings watched on as she tried telling them to stay away from her, but she couldn’t form any words. My little helper had been trying to fix the fan.

Mum's warning after daughter burnt by electric fan
Neveah’s injuries from the electric shock (Credit: Supplied)
Mandy Sibaly's daughter in hospital being treated for burns
Nevaeh in hospital being treated for her burns (Credit: Supplied)

I’d done my first-aid training five years ago, but was unsure of how to treat electric shock wounds.

Ushering the children into the car, we drove to Perth Children’s Hospital 15 minutes away.

Arriving, Nevaeh’s adrenaline dropped and the pain kicked in as doctors checked her heartbeat hadn’t been disrupted by the electricity passing through. Thankfully, the rhythm was stable.

The next morning, nurses cleaned and bandaged Nevaeh’s wounds before she was discharged.
And they had some advice for me.

I’ve updated my first-aid training, and I’d urge other parents to do the same.

‘Although the burn was caused by an electric shock, it’s still a burn, and should have been under cold water for 20 minutes,’ a doctor said.

We had to go back to the hospital every second day to have the burns cleaned. And, between visits, poor Nevaeh wasn’t her usual, bubbly self.

Almost a week after the accident, doctors performed a skin graft, taking flesh from her thigh. Sadly, it didn’t take, so my poor girl had a second surgery, using skin from her other thigh.

I was over the moon to hear it was a success. But out of school and stuck at home, Nevaeh was feeling blue. She had to wear gloves that applied pressure to her wounds, and she had a small limp from the grafts.

Mandy Sibaly
Nevaeh will wear gloves for 18 months while her skin heals (Credit: Supplied)

Nevaeh said she wanted to help me, like before she was injured. So I took her grocery shopping with her brother and sister, hanging light bags onto her stretched out arms.

‘See, you are helpful!’ I giggled.

Hearing Nevaeh laugh back was music to my ears.

And when she went back to school two weeks after her surgery, her spirits lifted and she had fun at the sports carnvial.

A month after the accident, Nevaeh was thrilled to wash her hands again for the first time.

‘Remember, you need to wear your gloves all day and don’t forget to apply your moisturiser and silicone cream,’ I’d say.

She’ll need to wear the mesh gloves for the next 18 months or so.

Now, Nevaeh is helping out with burns research for the Fiona Wood Foundation.

She provides hair samples to test her stress levels, and jumps on a trampoline to see if exercise helps increase serotonin.

I’m so thankful that our brave girl is still with us and that neither of the others touched her while she was electrocuted, or they could have been hurt too.

I’ve updated my first-aid training, and I’d urge other parents to do the same.

Nobody wants  to suffer an ordeal like this. 

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