An 11-year-old boy who was scarred for life after a stray firework set his shirt alight wants others to be aware of the dangers of fireworks this Bonfire Night.
Ben McCabe was just four years old when the horror accident occurred, and he still needs treatment every day for the burns injuries. He had been watching the pyrotechnics with dad Alan in the cul-de-sac where they live in Glasgow, on November 5, 2011.
Seven years later, Ben, who suffered third degree burns and needed skin grafts across his chest and neck, says he copes with the annual event by “pretending it’s just another day”.
Ben said: “Last Bonfire Night I managed to make it to the door to look outside but I’m still very scared of them. I usually sit in my room and pretend it’s just another day.
“I want people to think about the consequences of setting off these fireworks and how easy it is for something to go wrong – when you don’t know what to do.”
After being struck by the firework, Ben’s shirt was destroyed – and his dad rushed him into the house and put him in a cold bath, calling wife Amy to tell her what had happened.
Amy, 42, who had just clocked onto a shift as a nurse at Glasgow’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children, recalled what happened. She said: “The firework headed straight for Ben and went into his shirt which then caught alight. He was screaming so loud and no one could believe what had just happened.”
“Alan put him into a cold bath until the ambulance came – there was nothing left of his shirt.”
Amy ran down the hospital corridor to the A&E department to meet the ambulance and spent the next three weeks by Ben’s bedside.
“As a parent it was killing me inside seeing him like that. I had to try and keep calm for the family – and for Ben,” she said. “He was in hospital for 21 days and still needs skin grafts and massages four times a day to keep the skin’s elasticity and that can be really hard going.
“I am so very proud of my son – he is so much braver than me, and anyone I know.”
But after the initial horror of the accident and the subsequent medical treatment, the family had to live with the prospect that Ben would be scarred for life – and deal with how it would affect his confidence.
Amy, who now works as a dental technician, said: “I was worried about what people would say when they saw his scars and how he would react.
“There was an incident at the swimming pool when he had his pressure garment on and some boys were staring at him and shouting stuff to him. I was looking around for their parents and at the same time worrying what this would do to Ben.
“He came over to me and said ‘Mum can you take the garment off’ – so I did.
“He put his chin up and walked past these boys bearing his scars with this presence that made my heart skip a beat of pride. He is so much braver than me.”
The family found support from The Scottish Burned Children’s Club, and Amy said: “Ben is so much more confident and determined and wants to help others.
“He has an amazing network of friends through the club and I can’t describe how much it has helped him.
“For myself it has been a godsend to meet other families with similar stories – to know you are not on your own and that you are actually doing OK.
“It’s like a new family and a forever connection that no one else can understand. You can’t buy the support.”
Deputy Assistant Chief Officer for Prevention and Protection John Miller said: “Bonfire Night is typically the service’s busiest night of the year. We are appealing to the public to attend organised events rather than do-it-yourself bonfires and fireworks displays.
“Our firefighters work extremely hard to engage with people of all ages and equip them with the knowledge and the awareness of how to stay safe around bonfires and fireworks.”