6th August 2016
Today I was discharged from hospital and I am delighted to be back home.
Although I am not fully fit, and will take some weeks to recover properly, I feel I am on the mend.
It is 10 days since my accident and I am in considerably less pain and much, much wiser!
I know there has been a great deal of speculation about the cause of my accident and now, as I start down the road to recovery, I would like to explain exactly what happened. I am doing so in the hope that other people will learn from what was a horrendous experience and ensure the same thing does not happen to them.
Let me begin by explaining that I regularly have bonfires in my garden, to such an extent that I constructed a purpose built, three sided enclosure, using thermo-blocks in order to improve safety and protect surrounding vegetation.
When setting a bonfire I often use a small amount of petrol to get started. I am always very careful when doing this and I ensure that the newspaper lighting fuse is nowhere near any part of the bonfire that has come in contact with petrol.
However, on this occasion, I failed to take into account that my new bonfire enclosure would create a build-up of petrol fumes. That, my friends, was a problem I had not anticipated. When I lit the bonfire it was those fumes that exploded, not the petrol itself!
Because the fire was contained on three sides the exploding fumes had nowhere to go, except forward - towards me.
It was a scary moment!
My hair caught fire and I was badly burned on my face, back, sides, chest, both arms and right leg. In fact, my left leg was the only part of my body to escape (relatively) unscathed.
Thankfully, there was a hosepipe close by (positioned for just such an eventuality) and my wife, Louise, had the good sense to immediately douse me with water for 10 minutes. If she had not taken such immediate action then I might well be dead, and that is not being over dramatic!
Thereafter our fantastic NHS kicked in and I found myself in the capable hands of a succession of caring health professionals.
Louise took me to the minor injuries unit at Sheppey Community Hospital, where there was the usual two hour waiting time. Luckily, staff recognised that I was an emergency case, set aside protocol, and I was seen immediately. I can only apologise to anybody who thought at the time I had jumped the queue. I am sure that in similar circumstances the same would have happened to them.
Hospital nursing staff brought down my skin temperature with water soaked paper towels, which worked, but left me shivering, which wasn’t helped when shock kicked. Soon I found myself shaking uncontrollably.
A decision was taken to take me, as soon as possible, to the trauma unit at Tunbridge Wells Hospital, and the quickest way of doing that was by using the Kent Air Ambulance.
The journey from Sheppey to Pembury took just over 10 minutes. By road it would have taken a couple of hours. Once again I had reason to be thankful to all those people who help keep the Air Ambulance flying. We take so much for granted.
On my arrival at Pembury I was handed over to the hospital’s first class trauma team, which photographed my injuries and fed the information to the specialist burns unit in the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, where the staff decided that I would be better off in their Intensive Treatment Unit.
I was transferred from Pembury to East Grinstead, this time by standard ambulance, and was admitted to the ITU, where I was ensconced for the next ten days.
It appears that I sustained burns on 30% of my body, although, once again, I was lucky. My burns were deemed “superficial”, in as much that no skin grafts were needed, although, apparently, such wounds are the most painful because they affect surface nerves. I can vouch for that pain. I was in agony. Perhaps I was not so lucky after all!
However, despite the pain I have suffered during the past couple of weeks I could not help but be impressed by the dedication, professionalism, hard work and good humour of all the NHS staff who cared for me and their many other patients. They were exceptional.
During my 10 day stay in hospital I learned much about our fantastic NHS and the pressures under which it is operating.
One fact I was surprised to learn from staff in East Grinstead, was that many of the burns they treat are petrol related. It appears that I am not the only stupid fool who uses petrol to start bonfires. And, believe me, my action was foolish and is not something I will be doing again. EVER!
I have posted a photograph below showing the outcome of my accident. It is not a flattering photograph, but I have posted it because I very much hope it will show, in graphic terms, the affect that one moment of thoughtlessness can have on any one of us.
So, to anybody out there who is in the habit of using petrol to start a bonfire, or is tempted to do so in the future, I would urge you to resist such temptation.
Think of what happened to me and remember that the same thing could happen to you.
Your skin could end up looking like mine did, or, worse, you could end up DEAD!
So, a big thank you to all those who have helped me since my accident; the reception staff at Sheppey Community Hospital who ensured I received urgent attention; the medical staff who acted so quickly; and the paramedics, who arrived at the Community Hospital so quickly, to take over my treatment from the local staff.
Thank you to the pilot of the Kent Air Ambulance, who ensured I arrived at Pembury so quickly, and the on-board medical staff whose quiet professionalism I found both calming and re-assuring. Thanks to the good natured ambulance crew who transported me to East Grinstead.
Thank you in particular to all the staff, in all three hospitals, who did so much to make me as comfortable as possible: the doctors, the nurses, the radiographers, the porters, the cleaners, the cooks and all the other back room staff who apply the oil that makes the wheels of the NHS go round so smoothly.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my fantastic constituency team, led by Jess McMahon and Mike Whiting, who stepped into the breech left by my absence and ensured that my constituents continue to receive the good service they deserve.
Thanks to my many friends and colleagues who have sent messages of support and good wishes.
Finally, thanks again to Louise for her help and support.