LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For Rochell Rushlow, Fire Prevention Week brings up some painful memories. While difficult, she decided to share her experience in hopes that it could help prevent others from the pain she suffered.
Last summer Rushlow was trying to multi-task while cooking lunch for the family. She went into the other room to iron. When she returned to the kitchen, a grease fire was taking over.
"I panicked," Rushlow recalled. "The flames started going up the side of the refrigerator."
She said she knew not to throw water on a grease fire, but didn't know what to do. She opened the door while her daughter grabbed the pot to take it outside.
"When the air hit the fire, it caused it to create a ball of fire. I was hit down my entire left side and it wrapped around hitting some of my right side as well," Rushlow said.
She said she didn't feel the pain at first, but could already see damage on her skin from the burn. It wasn't until she got to the hospital that the severity of her injuries started to sink in.
"I was going into the OR and I didn't think that I was going to live," Rushlow recalled.
She remembers telling the anesthesiologist that she was worried about her daughter who also suffered some burns.
"I said I was really worried about her mental health because I know she felt guilty because she was holding the pot. I remember telling them that I wanted her to know it was just an accident. That's when it really sunk in because I didn't think I was going to make it," Rushlow said.
Thankfully, she did make it in large part thanks to the staff at UofL Hospital's Burn Center. Medical Director Glen Franklin said he remembers when Rushlow came in. He told her that grease fires are a common way people get burned.
As the only adult-dedicated burn unit in Kentucky, Dr. Franklin and his team help patients from all over the state and region heal. He said his goal is not only their physical health but to help them have as little scarring as possible.
"I think she looks fantastic there today. She's all healed from her burns. This is the kind of outcome we hope for," Dr. Franklin said.
Even though she is physically doing better, Rushlow said this has been difficult. She now suffers from PTSD. While she said it is hard to share her story, she continues to share it in hopes that it prevents others from going through what she did.
"I knew not to put water on a grease fire, however, I didn't know you could just smother it. Life would have been very different. I want people to know the dangers that are involved with everyday things like cooking. Had I covered it, this would have never happened," Rushlow said.
The National Fire Protection Association suggests keeping a lid nearby when cooking to smother small grease fires. You can do so by sliding the lid over the pan and turning the stove off. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.