Second deal for Jane Healy…
Jane Healy, who was horrifically burnt in a fire, has appeared over two pages of a top magazine.
Take a Break mag ran a great update on Jane, who originally appeared in The Sun newspaper.
She was just nine years old when while playing camp in a nearby wood, a bottle of meths bought for the fire splashed onto her dress.
In seconds Jane became a fireball…
You can read Jane’s extraordinary real life story here:
By Alison Smith-Squire
Jane Healy still vividly remembers every agonising second of the day she was burnt alive and almost died.
She was just nine years old and it was a beautiful sunny August day in the school holidays. And while her mum Barbara busied herself with her younger siblings, twins Sally and Robert, six, Jane and her older brother Peter, 11, went out to play in a nearby field.
Armed with a tin of beans for a camp feast and a Bunsen burner to cook on, the duo and some friends went to the chemist to buy some methylated spirits to fuel it.
“Some of them were larking around when some meths splashed on my clothes,” she recalls, “I remember thinking mum would be cross because my navy blue cardigan and pinafore would smell.”
It was to be Jane’s last thought of her life before being burnt. For a split-second accident was to not only change her idyllic countryside childhood but rip apart her happy family.
She says: “One of the boys threw a match on the filled up burner. There was a huge whoosh of a fireball. And a gentle breeze suddenly fanned a flame towards me.”
In that moment Jane’s nylon pinafore engulfed her in a ball of flames.
Jane, who lives in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, remembers the searing heat but strangely no pain. “I now know the fire was so intense it immediately burnt all my nerve endings,” she says, “and all I could see was orange as flames danced in front of me – and the horror on the faces of the children around me.”
Instinctively Jane began to scream and run across the field. She says: “A man from an adjoining garden jumped over barbed wire. I’ll never forget his terrified face as he sprinted towards me.”
Placing a cardboard box over her head to suffocate flames that were licking around her face he pushed her to the ground, rolling her over and over in the grass.
Today she realises his quick actions saved her life. “Had he not been there then my whole head would have caught fire too and I’d surely have been dead.”
Within seconds her parents, alerted by the children, were rushing to the scene.
“My dad was an optician and the look of shock and panic as he raced to the scene will stay with me forever. He was shouting at my mum, who was hysterical, to bring a sheet.
An ambulance was called but realising his daughter was dying, Jane’s dad couldn’t wait. “He bundled me into a neighbour’s car to take me to hospital.”
As she sat in the back with him, it was then Jane realised the severity of her injuries.
“My body was still smoking. The stench of burnt flesh was disgusting,” she says, “and my clothes had disappeared, melted into my skin.”
At hospital doctors were shocked at her appearance and she was rushed with a police escort to a specialist burns unit.
“The hardest part was seeing my dad cry. I had 75 per cent burns and wasn’t expected to last the night.”
Incredibly she clung on but the next few days were critical as she underwent the first of hundreds of operations.
“Most agonising was the terrible thirst – caused by the body sending all available water it has to soothe the burns. But although I begged for drinks they couldn’t give me much as it could have damaged my kidneys.”
Meanwhile, when bandages around her head were removed, her burnt ears fell off.
However against all the odds she survived. “I had the most wonderful surgeon, Frank Robinson, who encouraged me to push myself. And by seven weeks I could sit up and shuffle in a zimmer frame.”
But when she looked in the mirror she was devastated. “Of course I’d seen the horrified look on peoples’ faces when they saw me. But I had no idea it was so bad.”
At nine weeks she was allowed home briefly.
Yet worse was to come.
“The burns were so severe on my neck that my chin was fused onto my chest. My parents faced a terrible dilemma – allowing me to have surgery to slice my neck free that needed huge skins grafts from my legs and could kill me – or leaving me disabled and unable to move my head for the rest of my life.
“In the end they agreed I should have the surgery – and it was the right decision. But following the operation I was in terrible pain. I had to lie on my back for three weeks with my head on a sandbag so it wouldn’t fuse with my chest again.”
And even as the scars began to heal, life was never the same again.
“The local community knew what had happened. And luckily I always had lots of friends at school. But as I reached my teens I grew terribly self-conscious of my body.
“Other girls loved changing for PE so they could compare their pretty bras. But on games days I’d put my kit on underneath my uniform. And although my mum made me a costume that went right up to my neck, I dreaded swimming.”
As she grew away her concerns about the extensive scars continued. “There were times I wondered would I ever meet anyone and have a normal family life?”
“Luckily I had a slim figure and at a nightclub in the evening, when it was dark and in a covered up outfit, I could get away with men not noticing my scars.
“But for years I tried to avoid meeting anyone on dates during daytime when I was unable to hide them.”
Despite this, Jane did have a number of relationships. “But when things got more intimate I’d remain clothed, only letting a boyfriend see a small amount of scarring as we went on.”
However, aged 21 she met Tony at a bar. “A friend told him I fancied him. He came over and asked for my phone number and within weeks we were a couple. He was never bothered about my scars and we were together for 12 years.”
Sadly the couple split shortly before their son James was born. “Things had been rocky for a while,” says Jane.
And then tragically when James was four months old, he fell victim to cot death.
“The year after his death I went through the bleakest time in my life,” she says.
Thankfully, she then met husband Chris, 49, through friends and after a whirlwind six-week romance in june 1989 they wed.
“Like Tony, he was never troubled by my scars,” she says, “and I don’t understand women who won’t let their husbands see them naked when they have nothing to worry about.”
A year later their daughter Laura, 24, was born. This time Jane needed an emergency caesarean – doctors had to consult a plastic surgeon about how to cut through the thick scarring on her stomach.
“She is my best friend,” says Jane, “she is so proud of me.”
But her injuries have cast a dark shadow over other family relationships.
“My dad died a broken man at the age of 52 from an aneurysm. He was a man who admired beauty in women. He never came to terms with the fact his beautiful daughter was disfigured.”
Brother Peter has also never come to terms with what happened. “He still finds it hard to talk about,” she says, “It wasn’t his fault but as my older brother he feels guilty it happened to me and has been haunted by the trauma of seeing me on fire.
“My mother too has been traumatised by what ifs. What if she hadn’t let me go out to play that day, why did she let me go camping… she is in her 80s but will never get over it.
“And the fact she had to devote so much time to me with hospital visits meant she wasn’t there so much for the twins. It has caused a lot of family resentment and we are not the close family we should be.”
Yet Jane, now 54, has not let the extensive scars stop her doing anything. She runs her own cosmetics business selling make-up and these days even dons a normal swimsuit when she goes to the beach.
“Yes people stare but I’ve got to the point where my scars really don’t bother me,” she says, “in fact now I’m more likely to worry about whether I’m putting on weight than my skin.”
She adds: “In a strange way I consider myself lucky – because going through such a terrible experience so early on in my life has made me truly appreciate every day.
“And I only hope telling my story gives inspiration to anyone going through a similar nightmare that there is life beyond the scars. You can be happy again.”
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