Katelyn Rewko was 21 years old and working in her dream job when she was burnt in a horrific workplace accident that ended her career.
Katelyn Rewko always dreamt of becoming a chef and at the age of 21, she was doing exactly that. The young woman was working in a job she loved, at Brisbane restaurant Cha Cha Char. But in 2017, a devastating workplace accident ended that dream, leaving Mrs Rewko out of work and in ongoing pain and discomfort.
On the day the incident occurred, Mrs Rewko was asked to cook a duck parfait — a dish which was cooked inside a tray of water in an oven over several hours. The oven in question was placed on top of a bench, far out of reach of Mrs Rewko, who is less than 160cm — which meant she always needed to step onto a crate to use it. That day, some dinner rolls had also been placed on a tray inside the oven to warm, and Mrs Rewko was asked to retrieve them. But at some point, the positions of the two trays were switched — and because Mrs Rewko couldn’t see inside them, she ended up mistakenly pulling the tray filled with the hot water, spilling it over her and badly burning both arms in just seconds.
Mrs Rewko, now 23, told news.com.au she was “always scared” she would get hurt when pulling heavy items out of the high oven and that she was “cautious” around it. “Normally if I’m doing something that involves cooking with hot water I’d get one of the taller boys to get it out for me, but I thought it was just bread,” she explained. “I had only just become qualified and it was the first kitchen I’d ever worked in, so I was under the impression it (the oven position) was normal. Whenever I questioned anything I got in trouble so I would do what I was told, put my head down and not complain.”
Mrs Rewko said she was in shock immediately after the accident. “My arms were still burning so I put them under cold water and I said I needed to go … They didn’t call an ambulance; they called my mum to pick me up. Obviously seeing me in so much pain, she was in shock too, and she didn’t know what to do,” she said. “It was the most pain I’ve ever felt before. I was shaking. My arms were on fire, I couldn’t think straight — it was just burning. It felt like my arms were falling off — I had blisters from it and my arms ended up getting infected because it wasn’t acted on fast enough; I didn’t get proper treatment.”
Mrs Rewko’s mother ended up taking her to a GP, and she was off work for a month. During that time, she struggled to sleep and her husband had to help her with basic tasks like showering and changing due to her injuries. “The burns blistered and I had second-degree burns … my arms looked like bubble wrap. It took about a month for my skin to heal enough for me to go back to work,” she said.
Mrs Rewko went back to work after a month but was in so much pain she was unable to work at full capacity and felt she had no choice but to resign.