Carol's Story

Carol Mayer was just 33 when she sustained burn injuries to over 80% of her body in a house fire in February 2000. To this day Carol is unaware of what started the fire that engulfed her home or how she managed to survive the fire that left her seriously injured and fighting for life.

Given a 50:50 chance of survival, Carol spent 8 weeks in a coma in the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital intensive care unit followed by 9 months of painful recovery in the burns unit. She endured more than 100 operations and excruciating rehabilitation to learn how to do things which she previously took for granted.

Separated by over 1,600kms from her 18 month old son in Cairns, who was rescued from the fire unscathed, it was thoughts of him that kept her fighting to stay alive. After 9 months Carol was determined to re-acquaint herself with her son who no longer recognised her and overcome feelings of loneliness, isolation, loss and grief; just some of the psychological effects of burn injuries.

Today, Carol gets satisfaction from sharing her story and speaks out about life after adversity. She is a truly inspirational woman whose strength of character inspired a community to build her and her son a new home. Her attitude and example gives other burn survivors the courage to move on with their lives and face their fears head on.

Back in February 2000 Carol was living in a rental property without smoke alarms. As of 1 July 2007, legislation was passed that every domestic dwelling in Queensland was required to have smoke alarms. This legislation now extends across Australia. Research has shown that having working smoke alarms installed in your home significantly reduces the likelihood of property loss and damage, suffering serious injuries and reducing the incidence of death by up to four times.

Whilst this doesn’t change Carol’s story, it is a reminder for everyone to ensure smoke alarms are installed correctly and maintained regularly.  Smoke alarms should be tested monthly and batteries changed at the end of daylight savings every year. It is also important to remember that smoke alarms have a limited working life and need to be replaced every 10 years.

Acknowledgement of photographer – Brian Cassey won the 2011 Nikon-Walkley Best Portrait Prize for his photograph ‘Carol – Burns Survivor’.

FIRST AID QUICK GUIDE
In an emergency call 000
1. REMOVE
Remove any clothing and jewellery from the affected area to allow effective cooling of the burn.
2. COOL
Cool the burn under cool running water for 20 minutes - this will stop the burning process and also help ease the pain.
3. COVER
Cover the burn with a clean lint free cloth or if it is a large area, cover loosely with cling wrap to lessen the chance of infection.
4. SEEK
Seek medical advice if the burn is larger than a 20 cent piece or on the face, hands, feet or groin area.