One afternoon in 1972, Linda Allen found herself back where she had spent much of her childhood – only this time her son was the patient.
The afternoon started as a normal Sunday at Linda’s mother’s house. Linda’s mother sent her son, Jeffrey, outside to help burn trash. While they were burning trash, Linda’s step-brother threw gasoline on the fire, and the flames flew back and caught Jeffrey on fire. Her step-brother rolled Jeffrey in the grass to put the fire out, but his face, arms, legs and hands were already burnt.
Linda and her mother immediately took Jeffrey to the doctor in Jasper where a doctor was waiting on them. The doctor gave Jeffrey medicine for pain and put him in an ambulance headed to Children’s Hospital. Traffic was backed up all the way from Jasper to Birmingham, and by the time the ambulance arrived at the hospital, Jeffrey’s face and hands were solid blisters.
Jeffrey spent 30 days in the burn unit at Children’s. Doctors initially thought he would need plastic surgery, but it turned out that he didn’t. His burns were treated with Neosporin, and nurses changed his dressing 3 or 4 times a day. The one thing that Linda remembers most about Jeffrey’s time in the hospital is the care he received. She recalls the nurses being extremely careful and gentle with him when they were changing the dressing. Jeffrey was six years old at the time, so a hospital could be a very scary place. Linda remembers how comforting all the hospital staff was. “All the nurses and doctors were so great to him, and he never cried a bit,” Linda said. “They made him so at peace. He was never scared.”
Linda also remembers someone outside of the hospital staff that made Jeffrey’s stay at Children’s special. Sergeant Jack, a Channel 6 children’s program character, visited the hospital. He couldn’t come into Jeffrey’s room, so he would walk by and wave at him everyday.
Jeffrey is now 43, and his scars have faded into his chest and hands. If you didn’t know him, you wouldn’t know he had ever been burned.
Linda spent a significant part of her childhood at Children’s Hospital. She was diagnosed with rheumatic fever when she was 4 or 5 years old and had it on and off for 13 years. She spent 2-3 months at the hospital at a time and was there about 7 months out of every year.
Linda doesn’t have many memories of the hospital. She was mostly comatose when she was there, but she does remember waking up and being scared. “Most of the time, I was just out of it,” Linda said, “I do remember getting a lot of shots. I would see the nurses coming and know it was time to turn over.”
Linda still thinks of Children’s as a special place that is changing the lives of children and their families everyday. She said, “I can’t believe all the miracles they’re doing for children.”
The Allen family has been deeply affected by Children’s Hospital. Without Children’s, both Linda and Jeffrey’s lives could have been completely different. Linda said, “If I was rich and had the money, I would donate everything I had to them.”