A MUM accidentally set her face on fire after her hair caught light when she was lighting a cigarette.
Louise Tanner wanted a cigarette and couldn’t find a light so decided to use the hob in her kitchen at her home in West Sussex.
As the 50-year-old leaned over to light up, her hair went up in flames as it was caked in hairspray.
The mum-of-two was left with third degree burns on her ears, head, face and neck and has been scarred for life.
Despite this Louise said she still smokes but is “much more careful now”.
She said: “That day was the worst day of my life but I’m just thankful to be alive.
“I’m now speaking out to raise awareness for burn victims and let them know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
One day in February 2019 Louise was getting ready for the day ahead as normal and applied her hairspray.
A few hours later she fancied a cigarette so grabbed her packet and a lighter – only to find that it had run out of fuel.
She searched the house but was unable to find another and it was then that she decided to use the hob.
Louise said: “I clicked on the gas ring to light the cigarette, but as I leaned over to take a puff, my hair went up in flames.
“I began running in circles around the kitchen, howling in pain. The flames quickly spread from my head down to my face and neck.
“I kept screaming for help before desperately ripping my hair out from the roots. My heart was pounding so hard I thought I might have a heart attack.”
After several minutes of being exposed to the heat, Louise was able to run the cold tap and dunk her head underneath it.
She says: “As the water drenched my head, I sobbed in relief.
“I was glad to be alive.”
There was a deceased person’s skin on my face and it stunk of rotten flesh. My face looked like a quilt, it was devastating
Exhausted from the ordeal, Louise went upstairs and fell asleep.
Hours later her now ex-husband returned to find that her face had melted off.
Louise says: “He was shaking me awake while screaming, asking what happened.
“I kept insisting nothing was wrong.”
He called an ambulance which arrived in minutes.
At Worthing Hospital she was told she had third degree burns on her head, face, neck and ear and Louise said her face was so swollen that she couldn’t open her eyes properly.
“I felt like someone had beaten me up.
“Thankfully, a nurse appeared and gave me a dose of morphine.
“After I was bandaged up, two nurses used paper-clips to open my eyes so they could prise out my contact lenses”, she said.
It wasn’t until the next morning that Louise looked into the mirror for the first time, only to find that her head was “burnt to a crisp”.
She added: “I felt so ugly.
“It was like I was in a nightmare and I couldn’t wake up.
“Although I’d only burned 2.5 per cent of my body, it was in the worst possible place.”
The next day, Louise was transferred to a burns unit at East Grinstead Hospital.
Doctors told her she’d be receiving a donor skin graft for her face.
Louise says: “I asked why they couldn’t use my own skin and the surgeon explained it’d involve more operations and would leave more scarring.
“After the hour-long operation, I felt sick.
“There was a deceased person’s skin on my face and it stunk of rotten flesh.
“My face looked like a quilt, it was devastating.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about how all of this could’ve been avoided if I’d just been more careful.”
Just two days after the ordeal Louise was discharged from hospital and was determined to get back to normal.
She decided to head straight to the shops and saw that people were staring at her.
She said: “I wanted to be angry but I couldn’t. It was normal to be curious, I’d have done the same.
“After that I never let people upset me when they stared.”
A year on and Louise’s face has nearly healed but the skin isn’t completely smooth and Louise says there are still some bumps and little pimples.
“I also have nerve damage and can’t go into direct sunlight as my donor skin is so fragile”, she said.
Louise said it’s “amazing” how well she has healed over the last year.
“I can’t thank the doctors and surgeons enough.
“I’m also thankful to my hairdresser, Jade, who took care to keep my graft dry whilst cutting and styling what was left of my hair.
“I still smoke but I’m extremely careful now.”
View more information: https://www.the-sun.com/news/1302668/mum-face-fire-lighting-cigarette-hairspray-caught-light/