My legless lifesaver!

I was engulfed by flames because of a midnight snack...

Published by: Phillipa Cherryson and Laura Hinton
Published on: 1 September 2011

My belly rumbled as I shuffled through to the kitchen in my pyjamas and velvet dressing gown. Time for a midnight snack! ‘I might make a toasted sandwich,’ I mumbled, sticking my head in the fridge.
My hubby Ricky, 49, had gone to bed an hour ago. We’d been out fishing all day, and he was tired.
He had a false leg, and wearing it for long periods of time could get uncomfortable for him. 
So, he’d propped it up against the bedside table and been asleep before his head hit the pillow.
‘I think I’ll have a cup of tea,’ I smiled to myself, filling the kettle.
Me and Ricky had been neighbours when we’d met, and he’d explained how a rare blood disorder had caused him to have his left leg amputated at the knee.
We’d hit it off and, before long, were dating. I’d known then, one leg or two, he was the man for me.
It didn’t matter that he couldn’t walk very far, or often needed a wheelchair. I was in love.
Now, popping on the kettle, I decided I’d have a quick ciggie. 
Taking a drag, I leant back against the kitchen counter and dropped my lighter back into my dressing gown pocket. ‘Just what I need before…’ I began, but a searing pain caught me short.
It felt like the skin on my chest was being torn off me. Suddenly, flames were leaping around in front of my face.
I was on fire! A loud bang. Flames flashing up my arm. A smell like burning bacon. Choking, I stumbled forwards.
Flames licked at my hand as I waved it around, trying to bat them out.
‘Ricky!’ I screeched, then let out a blood-curdling cry. ‘H-h-help…’
But I couldn’t breathe, not through the sickening stink of my singed flesh. 
I was being burned alive.
Falling against the kitchen floor, I felt my melted skin stick to the tiles. ‘R-Ricky…’ I croaked, my eyes starting to close.
‘I’m here,’ I heard him calling.
Opening my eyes, I saw him hopping towards me, naked and on one leg. He grabbed me by the shoulders, and began rolling me on the floor to put out the flames.
But the pain, it was too much, it felt like I’d been dipped in a vat of acid… Everything went black.
I blinked my eyes open. The lights were so bright, my eyes so heavy, I couldn’t keep them open. 
Where was I? Then I recognised the sterile hospital smell, and was hit by a wave of pain. It had a fuzzy edge, but felt like sharp needles were slowly being dragged across my chest and arms again and again.
Finally, forcing my eyes open, I found Ricky standing over me. ‘Oh love,’ he said, voice breaking.
‘W-what happened?’ I croaked. 
All I could remember was flames, searing pain. 
‘Your lighter set fire to a tissue in your dressing gown pocket. Then it exploded and…’ 
He looked away, biting his lip. ‘I thought I’d lost you.’
I thought I’d been about to die, but Ricky had saved me – my one-legged hero.
‘You’ve suffered 40 per cent burns to your body, mostly down your left-hand side,’ he continued, his eyes working their way down my bandages. ‘But surgeons have given you skin grafts on your chest and arms.’
Looking down, I saw his arms were bandaged, too. 
‘My hands and private parts got burned when I saved you,’ he grimaced. ‘I didn’t realise until I got to hospital that I’d been hurt.’
‘How long have I been here?’ I asked, looking around bewildered.
‘A week,’ he said, smiling gently. ‘You’re in Broomfield Hospital, but I’ve not left your bedside.’
‘But how, that’s more than 30 miles away from us?’ I gasped. ‘And your arms are in bandages.’
‘I’ve been sleeping in the car park, in our car,’ he said. ‘It’s really quiet at night.’
I couldn’t believe it. Even though he was recovering himself, not only had he saved my life, but he’d been there every second of the day, willing me on. 
‘And I brought these,’ he smiled, pulling out the walkie-talkies we took fishing. ‘Even if you want me in the middle of the night, I’ll be here.’
‘You’re my hero,’ I said, trying to smile against the tight, raw skin on my neck.
Over the next few days, I endured more skin grafts, but Ricky was by my side.
A few nights later, I found myself reaching for the walkie-talkie I’d tucked under my pillow. 
That day, doctors had taken muscle from my legs and skin from my belly to reconstruct my left breast. They’d even made me a new nipple.
But they’d had to scrub at the burned skin beforehand because it had become infected. I’d been given pain relief, but it had still felt as if they were chopping slices from a block of cheese.
Now I couldn’t sleep, no position was comfortable. ‘Ricky?’ I said into the walkie-talkie.
The air filled with static, then… ‘Hearing you loud and clear,’ came Ricky’s voice. ‘Now, do you want a bacon or sausage sandwich for brekkie?’
‘Hmm,’ I giggled. ‘Let me think about it.’ With his words, the pain seemed bearable. And so were the next six weeks in hospital.
Finally, I was allowed home and Ricky became my nurse, changing my bandages.
He even learned how to give me physio so I could get movement back in my arm and neck, where the grafted skin was still tight.
‘You know, I’d understand if you didn’t want to be with me any more,’ I told him. ‘You can do better than me, why waste your time?’
I was covered in scars, my skin was red raw and resembled a plucked chicken. ‘Daft devil – I love you,’ Ricky said. ‘No matter what you look like.’
Slowly, I fought my way back to health, and Ricky still rubs special burns cream into my damaged skin three times a day. 
I know it’s thanks to him I’m on the road to recovery. In fact, it’s thanks to him I’m here at all. He’s my one-legged wonder! 
Marilyn Holloway, 57, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire