Friday 21 September 2018

Burns mum gets on with life 19 months after fire horror


Burns victim Joanne McMahon, who says she is lucky to be alive, with her husband Mike and their friend, Liam Woulfe
Burns victim Joanne McMahon, who says she is lucky to be alive, with her husband Mike and their friend, Liam Woulfe

A woman who was engulfed in flames while lighting a Bain-Marie has said she is lucky to be alive.

Joanne McMahon, a nurse from Castlemahon, Co Limerick, did not realise there was an open flame on the Bain-Marie when she threw methylated spirits on to in May last year.

It happened as the mother-of-five's family gathered to celebrate one of her children's confirmation.

The front of her body, including her face, neck and hands, were engulfed in a ball of flame, leaving her fighting for her life.

"I remember having a great day. My daughter was after coming in with her yearbook from study and we decided we'd start the food," said Ms McMahon.

"I have a little Bain-Marie, a portable one, and I have a little stainless steel container that goes in under it to keep the water hot to heat the food.

"I've had it for years, and what I would do is put a bit of methylated spirits into it, light it and put it in underneath."

"On the day I did the same thing as always.

"The sun was just glorious that day 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. So, the ball of flame 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 knew I was on the lawn. I'm told I walked to the lawn. I was fading in and out of consciousness."

Ms McMahon was airlifted 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'm definitely lucky to be alive," she said.

"Looking back, it was serious, but it was the care and treatment and the prayers that got me through."

Bearing the scars of her ordeal, she remains remarkably positive.

"It's here and I just have to get on with it," she said.

"I suppose going forward it's more surgeries and see what they can improve. I just get on with everyday life."

Saying that she takes each day as it comes, she added: "The scar bands on my neck would be the next thing to try and release. They've done bits on my hands already.

"After that, I don't ask too far ahead, really."


Ms McMahon, who faces further operations and ongoing physiotherapy sessions; her husband Mike; and life-long friend Liam Woulfe have set up the Joanne McMahon Thanks- giving 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," she said.

"Their care from the early acute stage to now and through to rehabilitation has been outstanding."

Mr McMahon said the burns unit staff gave him "a shoulder to lean on".

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

To donate online see www.give.everydayhero.com/ie

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