Docs said Tilly would not survive the night
EMMA Sawford was downstairs loading the washing machine and boiling the kettle when she heard the screams of her young daughter upstairs.
The 26-year-old ran into the bathroom and was confronted with a nightmare.
She found her 15-month-old daughter lying in a bath a quarter-filled with scalding hot water.
The tap had been turned on accidentally by one of her other children and Tilly, who was then only 15 months old, had crawled onto a beanbag next to the bath and fallen into the water.
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It was later discovered that a fault on the boiler meant the water on the hot tap reached maximum temperature within seconds.
"I picked her up straight away and pulled the plug out," said full-time mum Emma. "Her skin was coming off in my hands.
"I think I started to go into shock, I couldn't speak properly, it was awful.
"We've since had to move out of that house because it brings back too many bad memories."
Tilly was only in the water for seconds but it was enough to cause her to pass out with the pain.
Emma – who also has two sons, Toby, eight, and Kaden, six, and a daughter Elise, three – was accompanied by her mother and her husband Kyle, 25, on the night of March 8, 2009, when Tilly was admitted to the Queen's Medical Centre's intensive care unit.
"On the night we went to hospital doctors turned round to us and said she wouldn't make it through the next few hours," she said.
"It felt like the wind had been knocked out of me; my world started to fall apart. I genuinely thought I'd lost my daughter."
Despite the predictions, Tilly hung on and at 3am was transferred to a hospital in Birmingham which is the regional centre for severe burns in the Midlands.
Nottingham surgeon Ciaran O'Boyle said: "Had she not had the right care in that first 24 hours she would have died."
Tilly stayed on the intensive care unit at Birmingham Children's Hospital for six months and during that time Emma and Kyle, of Moore Road, Strelley, were told on no less than five occasions that she would not make it.
"It's been a complete emotional roller-coaster. It has been incredibly hard at times. I just want her to have the best future possible," said Mrs Sawford.
When Tilly had recovered enough she returned to Nottingham – and has undergone more than 300 operations since the incident.
Each time she needs to be put under general anaesthetic because of her age.
Yesterday, Tilly, who attends the reception class at Seagrave Primary School, had her 321st operation at Nottingham Children's Hospital, based at the QMC, to clean up an infection on her leg and release some tight skin.
"Her wounds mean the skin tightens and she wasn't able to straighten her leg for a long time. She uses a wheelchair and doctors don't think she'll be able to walk when she's older," said her mother.
"I am so grateful for the care she has received at Nottingham; it's because of that care that she is here today."
Children's burns surgeon Mr O'Boyle, who has operated on Tilly several times, said: "Tilly's personality is inspiring. She has been put through a lot and it has not phased her at all."
TOMORROW: Read the amazing story of the young Iraqi boy treated at the hospital after being caught up in a bomb explosion.
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