By Liana Jacob
BRITISH MAN thought he was going to DIE and was ready to say GOODBYE after his RADIATOR EXPLODED and left him with THIRD-DEGREE BURNS, a COLLAPSED LUNG and damaged vocal cords.
In November 2018, head of web and digital marketing, Ian Easton (37) from Hampshire, UK, was working on his guitars in his converted garage and put on his electric heater which was hung on the wall.
The radiator kicked out a lot of heat in the beginning, so he turned it down halfway and continued with his work but 15 minutes later it exploded, and blew the wall of the garage out.
He ran out of the hole, tripping over, so he put his hands out to break his fall and saw them; his hands were burnt and his fingernails had come off. He then ran down his driveway still on fire, took his hoodie off but the fire had burned his shirt off underneath it.
Luckily a man was at the end of the driveway; he rushed him to his car where they waited for the ambulances and fire engines to arrive. His girlfriend, Kelly Becks (37) rushed to him and they said their goodbyes to each other, thinking he was going to die.
He was airlifted to Southampton General Hospital and then to Salisbury Hospital where he was in a coma for two weeks. His doctor told him that he had suffered third degree burns to his hands, nose and ears and second degree burns to his face and body.
He had also suffered severe inhalation burns which caused a collapsed lung and pneumonia. The inhalation burns have resulted in a vocal cord paralysis which has now affected his breathing and speech.
Despite feeling like a burden to his family and girlfriend, he attributes the majority of his recovery to his girlfriend and family members, who visited him daily, cleaned him and fed him back to health. He was overjoyed when his doctors told him that he would be able to play guitar again once he was recovered.
“I worked on guitars in my converted garage in my spare time; maintenance, repairs, setups etc. This specific day, I put the electric radiator on which was on the wall,” Ian said.
“It was the first time I had used it due to having moved in that April. I did not need to use it in the summer, but as it was November it had become cold.
“The radiator kicked out a lot of heat initially, so I turned it down halfway and got on with my work. fifteen minutes later it exploded. It blew the wall of the garage out, and I ran out of the hole, tripping over.
“I put my hands out to break my fall and then saw them – they were burnt to the bone; all the skin was burnt off and my fingernails had come off also.
“All the burnt, dead skin had congregated at the ends of each finger. I ran down the driveway on fire, taking my hoodie off – but the fire had burnt my top off underneath.
“My girlfriend arrived and we said our goodbyes as I thought I was about to die, they then intubated me and airlifted me to Southampton General, and then to Salisbury Hospital where I was admitted to ICU and in an induced coma for two weeks.
“I suffered third degree burns to my hands, nose and ears, second degree burns to my face and body. I also suffered severe inhalation burns which resulted in a collapsed lung and pneumonia.
“The inhalation burns have resulted in vocal cord paralysis which now affects my breathing and speech.
“Initially when waking up from my coma I was experiencing hallucinations from the drugs I was given intravenously.
“I also thought my hands and feet had been amputated (they were almost amputated whilst I was under, but they decided not to amputate them in the hope that they would recover); this was extremely distressful.
“On my second day of being awake, my burns physio came in and told me he wanted to see my hands, with a smile.
“They removed the bandages and burn bags, revealing extremely painful and burnt hands – but they were there.
“It was the greatest moment of my life. I asked if I would ever play guitar again and he said yes. I cried.
“The teams were incredible, but learning to stand, walk and begin using my hands again was difficult. Adjusting to the new reality was like an out of body experience.”
Ian admits that the real struggle with recovery was just as psychological as it was physical as the effects of the event itself resulted in him having violent flashbacks.
Due to his collapsed lung and pneumonia, the doctors decided not to give him skin grafts and allowed them to heal naturally, so he didn’t end up needing surgery. He’s had laser surgery on his hands to reduce scarring and he has been back to playing his guitar comfortably.
“Recovery was scary; the psychological effects of the event itself resulted in flashbacks and I did not want to be near anything that could explode – radiators, cookers, boilers – for a few months.
“Returning home was difficult because I saw the damage to my garage for the first time. My friend suggested I face it immediately and conquer it, which I did. I am glad I did that.
“As is the case with burns recovery, the psychological effects are as extreme as the physical effects. I suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and it took the best part of a year for me to return to any kind of normal life.
“The inhalation burns also meant I was struggling to get enough air in, due to my vocal cords being half closed, thus reducing the size of my airway.
“This was also extremely distressing; air is life, and I felt I was suffocating with every breath. Slowly, I began to manage.
“I was more concerned about my girlfriend, family and friends, and being a burden on them; they visited me daily, especially my girlfriend and family – I could not have got through it without their constant support and positivity.
“They fed me, bathed me and cleaned me until I was well enough to do it myself. This was tough – as what used to be an automatic process and easy, was now impossible.
“I never anticipated how difficult losing the ability to use your hands could ever be. We all take it for granted, of course. As a musician too, they were my tools.
“My girlfriend Kelly has been my biggest supporter; she has been a life saver and my shining light. My family live in Spain and my brother lives in the midlands, but they have been here when they can and have also been incredible.
“Even though I will never sing again, I wrote and recorded three albums prior and am proud of what I’ve achieved.
“Having these burns means that I get a lot of looks and comments from people who don’t know me, which I have become used to over time.
“Breathing issues ongoing mean I have procedures booked to try to fix this, but I may be left with breathing and voice problems for the rest of my life.
“The adjustment is difficult; mentally, physically, emotionally and socially. But it has taught me how strong we can be in the most adverse situations, and that there is happiness and satisfaction in the peaceful, quiet life. I believe the whole experience has made me more humble, and I am glad of that.
“Be patient and try to remain calm. It does get better, but due to the unpredictable nature of burns recovery and scar maturation, it takes time. Stay positive, stay as active as possible, see friends, family and socialise. Keep distracted. Work hard.”