Christine Selwyn was 17 when 44 per cent of her body was severely burnt in a house fire. She was staying in her grandmother’s Northland garage to celebrate a cousin’s 21st birthday when an unattended candle caused the blaze.
Christine has endured 27 operations and 17 hospital stays since the accident in April 2001. When first injured, she wore face masks, neck, leg and finger splits and spent two years wearing pressure garments – then had to learn to walk, talk and feed herself again.
It was during the 29-year-old’s most recent stay in the National Burn Centre, which offers treatment and rehabilitation to the most severe burn patients from across the country, that she inspired staff and aided future patients. Christine explained how isolated she felt living in a hospital unit without social media and Internet accessibility for months on end.
“I love coming to the National Burn Centre because everyone has got something in common,” says Christine. “People don’t look at me strangely because they are either patients or staff.
“But last March I was in for a neck release operation, which was a two month stay and that was harder than when the accident first happened. I was completely over it, frustrated, bored and lonely.”
While Christine remembers feeling isolated in 2001, she was in the Intensive Care Unit for one month and too unwell to do much at the time.
Christine uses social media and email to connect with the majority of her extended family and friends who live in Northland and Australia. She finds being unable to update them about her treatment and rehabilitation hard.
The National Burn Centre had one computer in a family room with very limited Internet access, including no Facebook or Trade Me until First National Real Estate Mangawhai donated to the First National Charitable Foundation, which donated four new iPads with ongoing connectivity. The iPads are now used by the victims of burns that are separated from their family and friends for weeks and sometimes months.
“It’s great,” Christine says. “When I was first injured I had difficulty talking on the phone because my vocal chords were damaged, so I had to whisper. If the iPads were there I could have just emailed if I felt up to it.”
Christine has another major reconstruction surgery next year and is already feeling more positive knowing she can keep engaged via social media.
“Our patients tend to stay for longer periods while receiving treatment and the iPads are a fantastic tool of interaction and entertainment for them,” says the National Burn Centre co-ordinator Tracey Perrett.
“The iPads are also useful as a distraction therapy during long procedures, like dressing changes. We are extremely thankful to First National Group for the donation.”
Make sure to install smoke alarms in your home, including sleep outs and garages and routinely check they work, adds Christine.
When you buy a house from First National Mangawhai you will receive a gift of compassion with your family’s safety in mind. A Home Safe Kit comes with fire extinguisher, fire blanket and smoke alarm. From the purchase of each kit $5 will go directly to the First National Charitable Foundation, which is in partnership with the National Burn Centre.
In March, the First National Charitable Foundation donated new Freeview flat screens to the National Burn Centre in time for the digital switchover.