We are honoured to have met with trainee fire-fighter Declan Meaney – Restore’s newest ambassador!
At seven-years-old Declan was rushed to hospital after he climbed up onto the kitchen side and took a box of matches. He then started playing with the matches outside his house, leading to him accidentally catching his t-shirt on fire. Unaware of the stop drop and roll fire safety technique, Declan ran into the house fully engulfed in flames where his mum and her friends helped put him out before calling an ambulance.
He was transferred to John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, and then Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Buckinghamshire, and suffered severe burns across his chest and has since had multiple skin graft surgeries.
Talking about how he has coped the 20 year-old said: “Primary school was very difficult for me because i was still getting used to what happened. Being in year five and six and being wrapped up in bandages under my school shirt, I was still trying to understand it.
“When I got to secondary school I was maturing and getting old and i was starting to learn to live with my scars and starting to like them. They’re part of me now and there’s nothing I can do to change it.”
At 14 years-old Declan had an operation called ‘Integra’, used to treat the skin of people with severe and deep burns. Integra has two layers, the bottom (dermal) is made of a fibrous protein material (collagen) from cows and a substance made from shark cartilage. The top layer (epidermal) is made of silicone.
“It’s used as artificial skin because it blends really well with human skin. Before that my burns were very hypertrophic, really thick and red and not very nice at all. Hopefully now I won’t need surgery again because its really elastic and stretchy.”
Whilst training to be a fire-fighter Declan is keen to raise awareness amongst children about fire safety and also wants to raise awareness for burn survivors.
“In one school it’s a rarity to find one child who has been burnt, or there may be one or two but people are unaware because people can cover up their scars. I’m very lucky, I’m able to cover up my scars, I can just put a t-shirt on and cover it up. For others it’s a bit different.
“I’ve found most people are really interested to know your story and how you manage. I have an artificial nipple done, so when you’re explaining it to them they are genuinely interested because they are unaware that you could even do things like that because it’s unlikely they or their friends have experienced it,” he said.
Restore is very excited about working with Declan on upcoming project and raising awareness about burn and scars together.