Thursday 26 April 2018

Mum engulfed in ball of fire raises funds to aid burns unit

Joanne McMahon with her friend Liam Woulfe (left) and husband Mike McMahon. Photo: Press 22
Joanne McMahon with her friend Liam Woulfe (left) and husband Mike McMahon. Photo: Press 22

David Raleigh

A mother who was engulfed in flames while lighting a cooking bain-marie at one of her children's confirmation, has begun a campaign to raise funds for the National Burns Unit in Dublin where she received life-saving treatment.

Joanne McMahon, a qualified nurse from Castlemahon, Co Limerick, didn't realise there was an open flame on the bain-marie when she threw methylated spirits onto it on May 30, 2014.

The front of her body, including her face, neck and hands, were engulfed in a ball of fire.

The mother-of-five was initially airlifted from her home to Cork University Hospital, and then transferred to the National Burns Unit at St James's Hospital, where she spent a month in an induced coma, and a total of 131 days re-learning how to walk and swallow.

"I went to sleep in Cork on May 30 and I woke up in Dublin on July 8," Ms McMahon said, in her first interview since the horrific accident 18 months ago.

Thankful to be alive, Ms McMahon alongside her husband Mike, and life-long friend Liam Woulfe, have set up the Joanne McMahon Thanksgiving Fund.

"My ultimate aim is to give back to the burns unit. I wasn't familiar with the burns unit until I ended up there myself. Their care from the early acute stage to now and through to rehabilitation has been outstanding," she said.

Ms McMahon, who faces further surgeries and ongoing physiotherapy, added: "We would just like to help the unit, so that for other people in the future - like myself who never expected to end up there - will continue to get the most advanced care available."

Ms McMahon said that Friday of the accident had initially been "a great day".

"I remember having a great day . . . The sun was just glorious that day and we had a little marquee up at the back of the house, and I didn't see that the sun camouflaged the sight of the flame and I didn't realise it had been lit.

"I came along with my bottle of methylated spirits and poured it in on top of a lighting flame that I wasn't aware (was lit). So, it (the ball of flames) was instant.

"I remember somebody said 'what do we do', and I said 'roll', and I can remember rolling (on the ground).

"The next thing I was on the lawn. I'm told I walked to the lawn. I was fading in and out of consciousness."

When Mike told her she had been asleep for four-and-a-half weeks, it didn't sink in initially.

"In the early days it would go over my head even though I had been told," she said.

The fundraising drive will be launched next Monday night at 8pm in Castlemahon community hall, and will culminate 131 days later - representing Ms McMahon's period of full-time hospital care - with a walk, run and a cycle in Castlemahon on April 17.

Joanne's husband Mike praised the burns unit staff at Cork University Hospital for their support.

"They were very compassionate to me when Joanne went in there," he said. "She was in a coma and the staff were very understanding - but they are to any family that goes in there with a loved one who is seriously ill."

Irish Independent

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