3-year-old catches fire: Mother shares harrowing ordeal

Livia Melin, who was three years old at the time, had gone to the kitchen to get a biscuit before returning to bed to snuggle with her mother. Within seconds, her entire body was engulfed in flames. Amanda, Livia's mother, now recounts the nightmare: "I heard the worst scream ever and saw my daughter's whole body on fire".

Livia Melin has been in Biva, the pediatric intensive care unit, in Uppsala since March 12.

Livia Melin has been in Biva, the pediatric intensive care unit, in Uppsala since March 12.

Foto: Privat

Ersmark2023-04-04 09:46
After being sedated for four days, Livia Melin's fight back from the burns began.

The Melin family in Ersmark had had a hitherto joyful March 12, 2023. Leon, their four-year-old son, had attended his first friend's party and returned home brimming with happiness that infected the entire family.

– It was a wonderful start to the day, says Amanda. 

The family's joy soon turned into a nightmare that every parent fears. As the mother and little Livia watched TV in one of the bedrooms, Livia went to the kitchen to make herself a biscuit with cheese like her mother. After a brief moment in the kitchen, Amanda, who was still in the bedroom, heard the most terrifying scream she had ever heard.

– I ran out to the kitchen and see my daughter burning all over. It's the absolute worst thing I've heard and seen, says the mother when she remembers the fateful day in mid-March.

Currently, as Norran talks to Amanda, she is waiting in Uppsala. Meanwhile, in an operating room nearby, Livia is being sedated for her second significant surgery since the accident. The family has been struggling with hope and despair for several weeks and has now decided to share their story.

When you saw your daughter in flames, what did you think?

– I thought about how quickly we had to act to resolve the situation. It only took a few seconds before Livia's father, Isak, was able to extinguish the fire with a blanket he had thrown around her, recalls Amanda, before continuing:

– The incident happened so quickly, it's unimaginable that things could go so wrong in such a short span of time, Amanda laments.

At that moment, the family was unable to comprehend what had happened. However, it soon became apparent that in her quest for biscuits, Livia had stumbled upon an electronic lighter and had accidentally pressed it against her dress.

– Within seconds, the cotton dress had caught fire, and it went up in flames. Livia's scream was so terrifying that it cannot be put into words. Witnessing my daughter with severe injuries and seeing her skin hanging in certain areas was an unthinkable experience, explains Amanda.

I understand that the moments following Livia's burn were traumatic and difficult to recollect. However, could you please share what you do remember from that time?

- I remember that we ran to the sink and were going to rinse her off with water but I said "Isaak, we can't rinse her off because it will hurt a lot". So then I called an ambulance and they were with us in 16 minutes. During that wait there were only panicked screams. We tried to bathe her with wet towels but it didn't work. Then when the ambulance came, she was given medicine but they couldn't do anything more, so we went in by ambulance to Skellefteå. There were ten people waiting for us in the emergency room and they made a quick assessment of how bad the damage was, then quite quickly they put her to sleep.

On the evening the accident occurred, the family was flown down to Arlanda by an ambulance flight.

The ambulance arrived at the Melin family's residence in Ersmark, located outside Kåge, at 3:15 p.m. By 4 p.m., Livia had been sedated and admitted to the intensive care unit at Skellefteå hospital. Once the hospital staff had taken photographs of Livia's injuries and sent them to Uppsala, it was decided that she needed to be transported there urgently.

By 10 p.m. that same evening, Livia was flown to Arlanda airport, where an ambulance taxi awaited her and her family to take them to Uppsala. During the journey, Amanda, after being in shock allday, recalls how she began to realize that her daughter's condition was critical.

Initially, Amanda assumed that Livia would be awakened in the morning, and neither of them comprehended the severity of the situation. Amanda was unaware that they would be away for an extended period, and during the ambulance ride from Arlanda to Uppsala, she inquired, "This isn't life-threatening, is it?" The response she received was, "Not at the moment, anyway."

– So I didn't understand anything; everything was like a fog.

Livia was kept sedated for four days - a period of time that mother Amanda describes as horrible.

Contrary to Amanda's initial belief that she would be permitted to speak with Livia the following day, her daughter remained sedated for four days. These 100 hours are remembered by Amanda with a sense of horror.

– It was a pure nightmare. The hospital staff tried to encourage me to go and eat, but I couldn't bring myself to do it for the first few days. All I wanted was to be with Livia, and I stood by her crying continuously. I desperately hoped for her to wake up and show some sign of life. I had no idea how bad the situation was, and people didn't want to talk about it. As someone who lives with an anxiety of death, it was pure torture for me to have so many catastrophic thoughts.

– I still don't believe this is real and don't know if I will ever understand.

Fortunately, Livia eventually regained consciousness, and Amanda was able to speak to her. Could you describe the emotions you felt when you saw Livia open her eyes again?

– It was probably the best moment of my entire life when I got to see Livia open her eyes again and hear how she was doing. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time, but I held back my emotions as I didn't want to scare her. When Livia regained consciousness, she thought she was still on fire, so she screamed: "Blow, blow, blow." After we managed to calm her down and she realized that she was not burning anymore, she went back to being her usual self for a while.

– Now she talks to me all the time, and she's back to being her old self. She's got her temperament and old sense of humor."

Livia Melin at the hospital in Uppsala.

During our conversation, Livia is in the midst of her second skin transplant. Although this operation is smaller in scale than the first, it was not initially planned. Livia had to undergo the procedure due to complications with the new skin in her armpit.

– We had taken two steps forward, but now we're taking one step back. Nevertheless, it was an expected outcome since there were issues in getting the skin to adhere properly under the armpit, as it tends to get moist there, explains Amanda.

This operation will hopefully be the last, and the family is beginning to entertain the dream of returning home soon.

– After this they will change the dressings on Livia's wounds, and that's when they will be able to see if the skin transplant was successful. If everything has gone well with the new skin, we might be able to go home next week, but we're not sure yet whether we'll be discharged to Ersmark or be admitted to Skellefteå Hospital for some more time.

Amanda Melin opens up about the nightmare the family experienced.

How bad were the burns?

– They said that Livia's burn injuries cover about 15 percent of her body. She suffered burns on her thigh, hands, chin, neck, and the left side of her stomach and chest," responds Amanda. She then adds:

– In a way, Livia has been fortunate enough to have relatively manageable burn injuries. However, she will face challenges such as tightness in the skin, sensitivity to the sun, and potential issues with the new skin as she grows older. Consequently, doctors anticipate that she will require more plastic surgeries in the future, explains Amanda.

Big brother Leon came to Uppsala for a week where the siblings played a lot with each other.

For Livia, March 12, 2023, will be a memory that leaves her with both physical and psychological traumatic experiences. For the rest of the Melin family, the memories of Livia engulfed in flames and the panicked scenes that followed will persist.

How have Livia's two brothers coped with the situation?

– Younger brother Loke has been at home the whole time and probably hasn't been able to process the situation much. However, the older brother, Leon, is incredibly traumatized and doesn't even want to be at home. He saw all of Livia's injuries immediately after we put out the fire, and he heard her screams.

Livia sustained burns on 15 percent of her body.

Will you be receiving help with the children's processing of this experience?

– We are waiting to meet with a counselor, but we allow Leon to talk about it openly. He can ask any questions he wants and talk about anything he wants. However, it got better after Leon was able to visit Livia in Uppsala and they could play together. They got to be with each other for a week there.

It sounds like you received good support from the healthcare system

– We have had the best possible care one could imagine. We have met with a counselor, and next week Livia will also meet with a counselor. Additionally, we have a large network of family and friends who have truly been there for us. Finally, we have had each other, me and Isak, through this,

Meanwhile, during their time in Uppsala, Livia, who was three years old at the time of the accident, had her 4th birthday, and together with the family, they were able to have a small celebration.

– It was truly wonderful to celebrate Livia's birthday, especially in the midst of everything that has happened, says Amanda with a tremble in her voice.

Livia Melin at the hospital in Uppsala.

The support for the family has not only come from the healthcare system. On social media, the comment sections of Amanda Melin's many posts from Uppsala have been filled with encouraging messages and love - a support that has moved Amanda to tears.

– It's unbelievable that we have received such tremendous support from people who don't even know us personally. We are truly grateful and it's difficult to put into words just how much it means to us. Isak's workplace and our children's preschool have been incredibly helpful during this time, Amanda explains.

You've obviously been very moved by this support.

– I am overwhelmed by the fact that so many people care, it feels unreal," she says and concludes with a message to everyone who has shown support in some way during their difficult time:

– It has warmed our hearts so much and we are so grateful for the support we have received from everyone during this difficult time. We haven't had to worry about our surroundings because everyone has really come through for us. We are genuinely and incredibly thankful, and I cannot find the words to describe what it means to us.


Barnintensivvårdsavdelningen (BIVA) in is a department where they take care of the sickest children and those who have undergone surgeries that require more monitoring. Here, children from the neonatal period up to 16 years of age are cared for.