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Ben McCabe suffered third degree burns when a firework managed to work its way into his jacket while he was watching a display in 2011. His mother Amy tells his story.

I was working that night and so Ben, who was four at the time, went to a fireworks display outside our home with his dad Alan and older brother Luke, and our neighbours. All the instructions and safety measures were followed and the kids were all wrapped up warm with their jackets zipped up, standing well back from the display.

For whatever reason, one of the fireworks went off and ended up in Ben's jacket. It happened so fast that no-one noticed and started looking around to see where it had gone because it wasn't in the sky. It wasn't until Ben started to scream that Alan realised something was wrong. When he opened Ben's coat his shirt was on fire. The firework had managed to work its way inside his jacket which had been zipped up to his chin.

If it can happen to us it can happen to anybody

I had just arrived to work as a theatre auxiliary nurse at Yorkhill sick kids' hospital (Glasgow) when my husband called and said "don't panic but Ben's been hit by a firework". I rushed straight to the A&E department. It was horrendous because I expected to see injuries later that night but not from my own son.


Ben suffered third degree burns to his chest, neck, under his right arm and behind his left ear. He was taken to theatre the next morning and a couple of days later he had a skin graft to his chest and neck. He was in hospital for three weeks. When he came home we were left with a child who cried every time we picked him up. It was heartbreaking. He was in tremendous pain at the time. He was on morphine in the hospital and he was sedated for part of the time.

People make comments like "it's a shame he's been hit by a firework" but it's more than that. Five years down the line we are still going for surgery and people aren't aware of that. They think it's a little burn and you get on with your life but you don't. It's psychological as well as physical.

Our lives revolved around Ben for a number of years. We still have to go to hospital and he had another skin graft in August. It's a whole life-changing situation. His older brother, who was eight at the time, saw it all and he still remembers it. Ben thankfully, because he was only four, has vague memories of his time in hospital.

We don't go out to celebrate fireworks anymore. Instead we cuddle up with popcorn and a film and shut out the world for the night. One Bonfire Night, Ben said that he would quite like to look at the fireworks at the front door but as we looked out a bang went off and he ran inside and went into himself again. He's trying and wants to move on. I think in time we will be able to enjoy a display again.


My advice to anyone celebrating Bonfire Night would be not to buy them for personal use. If you want to enjoy fireworks go to an organised display where it's controlled. Even if you follow instructions the firework can still misfire. Your job as a parent is to protect your child. We thought we were protecting ours and it still happened. If it can happen to us it can happen to anybody.

I now play a big part as a family liaison for the Scottish Burned Children's Club. Without them I don't think we would have been where we are. I get in touch with families and let them know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and help them to see it's not the end of the world. As a family, we thought that we wouldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. I had to go to counselling after the accident because I was getting panic attacks and couldn't leave the house. I had to leave my shopping in Asda a couple of times because I couldn't breathe. It's something that's always going to be there and I think without the support from other families we would really struggle.

Ben is a fantastic child and I think if he was of a different nature he would probably struggle, but he is energetic and positive and he's always got a spring in his step and gets on with it. He keeps us going.

For more information on firework safety

Posted: 11/4/2016 10:11:24 AM 0 comments


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