Ethanol burner - burns victim interview
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This transcript is taken from an interview between Consumer Protection and an ethanol burner burns victim in December 2016. The full interview is available from the link above. Grabs of certain key parts are available below within the transcipt.
Please explain the lead up to what happened – what you were doing at the time just prior to the explosion.
I had arrived at my girlfriend’s house. There were a few people already there. We went out the back of the property. My friend whose house it was got the candle down off the shelf. She had cleaned it fresh earlier that day and made sure it was completely dry as per the instructions. She had filled one of the canisters, one of three of the canisters with the recommended fuel that comes with the product and then it was lit as per instructions. Everything was fine, we sat down and a few minutes later there was kind of a crackling noise – a fire ball kind of came out of where the candle was sitting heading in my direction and it hit me, setting me on fire. From there I kind of took my jacket off – that was primarily what was on fire at that point – and given that it was fuel it just wouldn’t go out no matter how much I kind of patted it down so I stopped, dropped and rolled. Two of the people who were there were also trying to pat me down. One of the other girls got a hose and eventually I was extinguished, but there was a fair amount of damage done prior to that happening.
So, how long did it take from the explosion to you being extinguished?
Somewhere between 30 and 45 seconds, which might not sound like a lot of time, but when you’re on fire and it was just not going out it’s a considerable amount of time.
So you were obviously just innocently sitting at the table and it was other people who had touched the burner.
Yes exactly. There was the girl whose house it was, she had filled the canister up with a small amount of fuel. Luckily it was only one of the canisters that was filled up, not all three, and one of the other gentlemen who was there he lit the candle with the recommended lighter as well that comes from the store so I was actually sitting the furthest away from the candle, it just so happens that it was at the opening where it was able to get out.
You were taken to the hospital and were in an induced coma for a while. Can you explain just the initial part about the time you had in hospital and a bit of your early recovery?
So, after a few weeks I was kind of woken up from my coma. Surgery had taken place prior to then. Obviously I was on various pain killers, I think there was 5 or 6 different pain killers I was on so I was quite out of it but very traumatic side effects of those really heavy sedatives. Hallucinations so that was quite traumatic for me – kind of putting the pieces together as far as what was real and what wasn’t. Especially for my family as well kind of seeing how worried they were and the stress they were under was also stressful for me as well. I think it was 3 weeks I was in ICU for before heading off to burns. That’s when I became a lot more conscious and more aware of the severity of my injuries. It was quite a shock to hear kind of what I had been through and what the road ahead was going to look like and the amount of time involved in that.
Explain to us what your prognosis is now, what you have to do now and what your prognosis is for the future in terms of your recovery. Will there be permanent scaring do you fear?
So in the end I suffered burns to 18% of my body and during the first operation there was a sizable amount of my leg where skin grafts were taken. At this stage I’m having to attend the hospital twice a week, that’s for dressing changes, obviously because my wounds aren’t completely healed as yet, hopefully that will be all sorted in the next couple of weeks, but ongoing from that there’s physio and appointments with occupational therapists. I have to wear a head facemask, gloves and compression garments from anywhere between 6 to 12 months which is quite restrictive, especially in the summer months. It’s very uncomfortable, basically you’re restricted from going outside – doing anything that is really normal. Going to the shops is difficult obviously and there’s a bit of anxiety attached to going out in public, given the fact I have to wear a face mask, you know, for that entire time. As well as not being able to work. So basically it is an unknown, basically however long it takes for the scars to mature – 6 to 12 months is what they’re telling me at this stage, and yes I’m hoping that the discomfort eases off in the next few months because at the moment it is quite severe and it is very restrictive so far as what I can and can’t do at the moment, especially with work. Obviously it’s just not really an option for me and obviously the financial pressures kind of weigh into that as well. Yeah, it’s a tough time.
And what about the impact it obviously has on the people who lit the burner at the time and also on your family?
Yeah, obviously the people who were there that night I know had a really tough time, especially the initial weeks that I was asleep, not knowing the extent of my injuries, how I was going to feel when I woke up, what the future kind of held for me. Obviously, given I didn’t light the candle myself and that it wasn’t mine, that there was a little bit of guilt that went along with that. This, as well as the trauma of seeing a good friend virtually set on fire, and once the fire was extinguished my skin was still bubbling from the heat. You know I had skin falling off my hands, off my face. There was a child there as well – so super traumatic for them. My family as well – my family are all based down South, so I know that that trip up to Fiona Stanley initially was extremely traumatic for them, as well as seeing me in ICU with a million different cords and drips and things coming off me, and not really knowing what was going to happen when the bandages got taken off. Obviously there was some relief knowing I was in good hands, being at Fiona Stanley and having Fiona Wood as my surgeon and all the amazing nurses and people around me, but yeah, it’s been though on them, especially knowing the anxiety and kind of discomfort I’m in now and not being able to do a whole lot about that.
And obviously with this product, we’re looking to banning it. Do you obviously support that? But also a lot of people might have brought this as a gift or people might have them in their home. What’s your message to them and your support for the ban?
Obviously I support the ban 100% and I’m a very rational person, if there was anything that we had done that was incorrect, that was not as per the retailers instructions, you know I would be owning that, but the fact of the matter is we followed everything as per the instructions and this was still able to happen to me. I’m lucky that I’m recovering fairly well but if this was to happen to an elderly person or child there may not be coping as well as what I’m coping. The fact of the matter is these things are lit at Christmas time when you are entertaining and there are children around. So it is, I think it’s important to not only get them off the market but to get them out of people’s homes. So yes, I support it 100%.
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