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Every minute matters

Burns Injury – Lismore

Scott was working at the Lismore Turf Club, tidying the downstairs catering room for an upcoming event. The room had previously been closed and he noticed an off smell but didn’t think anything of it. A smoker at the time, Scott went to light a cigarette. The room flashed orange; the light had ignited a slow gas leak that had filled the room, causing an explosion and fire.

Scott was in the middle of the fire, his clothes alight and skin melting under the intense heat. Unable to see, but reacting quickly Scott dropped to the floor and felt for the door, pushing it open to escape. Scott tore his burning shirt from his body and ran to the jockey rooms where he turned on the shower and called for help.

The trainers and jockeys had heard the large explosion as it rang out across the Turf Club and came running. Thinking that Scott was still in the room, they were relieved to find him under the shower. NSW Ambulance had been called and Scott was already thinking about going to the hospital where his wife Liz worked as a mid-wife. Under the shower Scott noticed his legs were expanding, a reaction to the severe burns he had sustained.

When the ambulance arrived Scott was wrapped in wet blankets and given pain relief. Everything became pixelated for him as the drugs moved through his system. He was being transferred to Lismore Hospital by road, he couldn’t speak or move but could still hear clearly.

Scott needed specialist, urgent burns treatment and initially he was to be transferred to Sydney away from his family.

Thankfully, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter was able available to transfer him to the Royal Brisbane Hospital much closer to Scott’s family in Lismore. This would make all the difference for Scott, with his family able to support him during his recovery.

He was placed in to an induced coma and transferred with the Helicopter Critical Care Medical Team to the Royal Brisbane Hospital. Scott spent 11 days in the Intensive Care Unit before being transferred to the burns ward where he stayed for over a month.

Scott spoke of the moment when his children first saw him ‘wrapped as a mummy’ saying they were stand offish at first but quickly got used to his condition.

Recovery for burns victims is long and painful; burns baths, scrubbing of the skin, skin grafts, surgeries and physiotherapy. Scott remembers Christmas Eve 2017 as the most painful day of his life due to the burn baths he had to endure. While in a coma the drugs gave Scott horrific nightmares and the voices of the nurses around him infiltrated his sub-conscious. Scott said he knew staff by their voices before he saw them face to face.

Scott was lucky enough to be the third person in Australia to be part of a new treatment for burns victims. He also had to rebuild his strength which deteriorated while he was in hospital.

Coming home was one memory that Scott holds on to. The unexpected support from the community was overwhelming, Lismore people had rallied to fundraise for his wife Liz to stay in Brisbane and not work while he went through treatment. Scott said people he didn’t even know had generously contributed.

In July 2018 Scott returned to work at the Turf Club on light duties, keen to restore a sense of normality and not think about the accident. Scott spends time at the gym to regain his strength and cardio capacity as well as hand therapy and physiotherapy. His recovery is ongoing, with laser surgeries as well as physio and chiro therapies.

One thing that has helped Scott is playing golf once a week. It has not only improved his handicap, but also helped stretch his hands. While on the course in September Scott was playing with a gentleman who he found out was the NSW Ambulance Paramedic on his mission. This unexpected meeting on the golf course was incredibly moving for both Scott and Paramedic Trent.

Scott’s recovery will be lifelong. He is undergoing counselling for his accident, similar to veterans or fire victims who have undergone burns trauma. Scott needs to stay out of the sun and continually work on stretching his skin and strengthening his body. Scott remains positive and enjoys time with his family, being part of the community and working at the Turf Club. He also has not smoked since that day.