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Aerosol can explosion ruined my life, says girl (14)

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Jessica Woods pictured at her Drogheda home.

Jessica Woods pictured at her Drogheda home.

Jessica Woods pictured at her Drogheda home wearing one of her medical burns masks.

Jessica Woods pictured at her Drogheda home wearing one of her medical burns masks.

Jessica Woods before the accident

Jessica Woods before the accident

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Jessica Woods pictured at her Drogheda home.

A 14-year-old girl who suffered horrendous burns in a gas explosion during the summer has issued a stark warning to teens everywhere to stay away from aerosol cans.

"One flick of a lighter ruined my life and changed it forever," said Jessica Woods.

Now having undergone 18 different surgeries and facing even more in the future, she has bravely opened up about her ordeal so that others can learn from her experience.

Jessica and three pals, who were all aged between 12 and 14, received shocking burns in the flash explosion at a house at Ascail Fionnan in Drogheda last August 3, but Jessica's were to prove the worst.

"I was spraying the cans in the bedroom of the house. I had heard you can get a buzz from it, but I didn't know the dangers of the gas filling up the room," Jessica told the Herald.

The other three girls were in a corner of the room.

shock

"Then I went to light a cigarette, there was a massive flash and a ball of blue and purple flame started spinning in the middle of the room. It sucked the gas from one can in one corner and it shot across to the far wall," she remembered.

"The flames were flying around the room for about five seconds but it seemed like forever, I put my hands up to cover my face and there was a bang that blew the door off its hinges," she added.

"I was in shock and didn't know what had happened. I knew my clothes were burned and we ran from the room down to the garden, and then I remember just pulling all the burned skin from my arms," Jessica said.

"Then the girls were looking at me and one said 'Jess, your face' and I didn't know what they were talking about, and I looked and saw my reflection in the glass of the window. My skin was all gone."

Jessica, from St Finian's Park in Drogheda, was rushed to hospital and initially placed on a ventilator and in an induced coma.

She suffered severe burns to her face, head, neck, back and hands.

After months of painful surgery and skin grafts, and learning to eat and walk again, Jessica was finally allowed home from hospital three weeks ago.

But her mother Triona still has to bring her back to Dublin three times a week for treatment at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin.

"When I went in to see her first in August the nurses showed me to a room with a girl in it and I said 'sorry, I'm here to see Jessica Woods, and they answered that is Jessica," Triona told the Herald.

"I didn't recognise her, it was just such a shocking sight," she added.

"Jessica is still on a lot of medication, and she will also require two hearing aids because her eardrums were torn and the little bones in her ears that we use for hearing were all cracked by the blast," she added.

"She has to wear a mask 23 hours a day to help with the healing of her face. The whole incident has had a big impact on her mental health too - she is on a type of Prozac suitable for her age, she is a different girl than she was before the accident," said Triona.

Jessica said she is now afraid of lighters and aerosol cans, and even pulling out plugs from sockets - anything that could cause a potential spark.

In a corner of the room, a large box containing an assortment of masks, creams and medications is a sign of the regime that Jessica has to go through daily.

"The masks are to stop the scarring getting hard, and they are annoying to wear but I have to do it," she says.

"I'm more worried about my hands at the moment, I have to wear special gloves to stop my fingers webbing together, and I can't straighten my fingers," she explained.

Born on January 1, 2000, Jessica will turn 15 tomorrow.

She told how she doesn't go to discos with her friends, and how she notices people staring at her in the street.

"I try to laugh it off. I say 'do you want to get a photograph too?'," she said.

"I can't go out in the summer because the sun will damage my skin. I need more operations but I know they are for my own good," Jessica added.

With bravery, and knowing her battles are not over yet, Jessica appealed to others her age to stay away from aerosol cans.

"There's kids still messing around with them. But I would say to them to stop, it's not worth ruining your life over," she explained.

With 2015 clocking onto the calendar tomorrow, Jessica looks at it with a maturity that belies her young age.

"A new year. A new start," she says.

cfeehan@herald.ie


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