Explosion! Quinn's Story
Quinn wanted to share his story with as many people as he could, "Because," he said, "if I can stop even one other kid from going through what happened to me, there will have been some point to it all."
This is the story of what happened to Quinn, starting from one sunny Saturday afternoon in when he was twelve years old.
Quinn was a very ordinary boy. His school report was average. He liked riding his pushbike, playing computer games, and taking things apart to see how they work.
Unfortunately, like many other youngsters, he was fascinated by fire.
He knew how dangerous fire can be. In particular, he knew about petrol (gasoline) explosions. He never missed the TV show "London's Burning", and in one episode, when an actor had approached an open petrol tank with a naked flame, Quinn had exclaimed, "That's going to blow!"
Only a week after that TV episode, on 7th March 1998, Quinn and his friend Paul were playing in a field, where they found an abandoned motor-scooter and decided to take it apart. First, they drained the petrol left in the tank into a plastic container, and then Quinn took a cigarette lighter out of his pocket .....
When Quinn lit the lighter, the petrol exploded. The fireball hit him in the chest and set his clothes on fire. Screaming and terrified, on fire from head to foot, he panicked and ran, but Paul chased after him, knocked him down and put out the flames.
The boys ran to Paul's house, which was nearer than Quinn's. Paul's mother hurried Quinn into the bathroom and put him under a cold shower. She phoned Quinn's mother and the emergency ambulance service. While waiting for the ambulance, the two mothers undressed Quinn (still under the shower), and saw blisters bigger than a fist forming then bursting, and hand-sized patches of skin peeling off Quinn's body. Even after fifteen minutes in the shower, there was so much heat in his burned skin that the cold water was turning to steam as it touched him!
Then the ambulance crew arrived to take him to hospital. That one moment of stupidity would mean weeks in hospital, months of physiotherapy exercises, years of operations, and a whole lifetime of scars.
Quinn had been badly burned over 40% of his body. Luckily, there were no bad burns on his elbows, knees, hands, or feet. (If there had been, he might never again have been able to move them properly.) Three days after he was burned, the doctors took skin from his legs and grafted it onto his chest, neck, and thighs. These grafts didn't all "take", so a week later the doctors did it all over again, and also grafted his right ear and left eyelid. (You can read about skin grafting here.)
After another week, Quinn was allowed to get out of bed for the first time. Then, a few days later, he had more grafts; this time to his left ear and to both arms and shoulders. Altogether, he spent six weeks in hospital, and for another fortnight he had to go in to the hospital every day to do physiotherapy excercises.
In May, Quinn was fitted with a special collar, which he had to wear all the time, to try and stop the scars on his neck from contracting (shrinking together) and pulling his chin down.
The collar didn't work very well, so in July the doctors cut away scar tissue from his neck and re-grafted it. At the same time, Quinn had a z-plasty operation on his armpit because tight scars were stopping him from moving his arm properly. After this operation, Quinn had to spend two weeks flat on his back in bed with his head stretched backwards over pillows, to help the new graft on his neck to settle without contracting so much. Then he was fitted with another collar, and sent home.
In October, to help flatten his scars, he was fitted with pressure garments which he would have to wear night and day for almost two years. These covered all of him from the neck down, except for his lower arms, hands, and feet.
In November, he was finally finished with hospital physiotherapy, but he still had to do exercises at home.
In February 1999, Quinn's neck was grafted for the fourth time, followed by another fortnight in bed with his head stretched backwards, and yet another, stiffer, collar. Even so, by the summer his neck scars had contracted again (but not so badly this time), and he was finally allowed to leave the collar off.
In 2000, Quinn had tissue expanders inserted in his neck and shoulder, so that the surgeons could make flaps of skin to graft around his neck. This operation was only partly successful, because the expanders had to be taken out before they had made as much skin as the surgeons wanted.
In 2004, after three years of discussing different possible operations, Quinn had a z-plasty done on the tight scars at the front of his neck, and at last he could turn and raise his head almost normally.
Today, Quinn's scars look much better than they did, but he will always get overheated easily because he has so much scar tissue which cannot sweat, and he will carry those scars for the rest of his life.
A message from Quinn (aged 12): "If you're tempted to
play with fire, don't do it! It isn't worth it!"
... and one from me (Quinn's mother): Almost everyone I spoke to in the first two years after Quinn's 'accident' either had been burned themselves, or knew someone who had been burned. Most of these 'accidents' need not have happened. Please, learn something from Quinn's story - be more aware of danger - warn other people - you may even save a life!