Tuesday 4 November 2008

Teenager burned and scarred by firework makes online video to help others understand the dangers

Queen Victoria Hospital fireworks safety video

As 5th November approaches - the night that Guy Fawkes Night (also known as Fireworks or Bonfire Night) is traditionally celebrated in the UK - Helene Wood, who was burned and scarred by a firework 10 years ago (then aged 7) makes an online video to help others understand the dangers of fireworks.

A college student who was seriously burned and scarred by a firework has made a touching video telling her story to help other young people understand the dangers that fireworks present.

Helene Wood was burned on her neck and shoulder in an accident that happened when she was seven.

Now the 17 year old has linked up with Kent Police and the south east's specialist burns treatment centre, the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead (QVH), to spread the fireworks safety message.

Her video has being posted for other young people to see on YouTube, and it is also available on the Kent Police and QVH websites.

Helene has chosen to publicly back the Kent Police Safer Autumn campaign, particularly around firework safety.

She said: 'Ten years ago I was badly burned by a firework. I had to go through several operations including a skin graft. It was a really painful experience and I really don't want anyone to go through what I went through.'

Helene, who is studying art and photography at college in Surrey, revisited Queen Victoria hospital last week to make her video.

She told her story on camera before meeting with one of the hospital's 16 consultant plastic surgeons.

Helene described the firework accident: 'I don't really remember much of what happened other than the fact that suddenly there was mud in my face. Then someone picked me up, I saw an ambulance and my dad talking but I couldn't hear anything.

'It turned out that seven per cent of my body, my shoulder and up behind my ear had full thickness burns. It had burnt right down through the nerves straight to the bone.

'The operations were a success and I'll never forget what this hospital did for me. It is hard coming back, but it's also really special,' she added.

Consultant burns and plastic surgeon Mr Baljit Dheansa said: 'Helene's injury was quite deep. It went through quite a lot of the depth of the skin. She required an operation to remove all the dead and burnt tissue and then required a skin graft. Helene's been very lucky in getting a very good result but even then, the scarring associated with it took a long time to settle down. It takes years for scarring to settle down sometimes to a level where it doesn't cause so many problems.'

Mr Dheansa added: 'Fireworks injuries often cause quite deep burns. They tend to affect commonly the face, the chest and the hands because those are the exposed areas - especially around the face where there are so many important organs such as the eyes, around the mouth - they can have quite devastating effects.

'Scarring that goes with deep burns is often very difficult to control and often requires significant surgery to improve. One of the other devastating effects of scarring is the appearance that goes with it. A lot of patients with significant scarring may notice the changes in their appearance and the effect that has on their day-to-day life.'

Chief Inspector Lee Russell from the Partnership and Crime Reduction department at Kent Police, which is coordinating the Safer Autumn campaign, said: 'Helene is a very spirited young woman for speaking out about her injuries. She doesn't want anyone else to go through what she did.

'Although Helene was injured by a rogue firework at a public display 10 years ago, it was a freak accident that shows just how dangerous fireworks can be. Organised displays remain the safest way to see fireworks.

'We want everyone to remember bonfire night and fireworks as great fun. We don't want to see anyone injured.

'Remember, fireworks are dangerous. Don't mess with them. People can look at our website for good advice, and should always follow the Fireworks Code.'

Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is at the forefront of specialist care in burns, reconstructive and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics and corneo-plastic surgery. It is a regional centre for a catchment of 4.5 million people throughout Kent, Sussex, Surrey and beyond.

For a second year the Healthcare Commission has rated QVH as Double Excellent.

See: http://www.kent.police.uk and http://www.qvh.nhs.uk

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