Firefighter David Beanland’s recovery from the serious burns he received in the April 5 Icepak coolstore explosion and fire at Tamahere has been marked with a special milestone.
Nearly four months since the day he was injured Beanland arranged for his 17-year-old daughter Paige to arrive at her Melville High School ball last weekend by fire engine, reports the Waikato Times.
Paige is in remission after being diagnosed with leukaemia in February last year.
Beanland was cared for in Waikato Hospital’s intensive-care unit, after suffering serious burns to his head and hands, which were attended to every few hours.
For the next month he couldn’t bring himself to look at his injuries.
“The first four weeks in hospital I didn’t want to look in the mirror, at photos, nothing … but then I finally popped a brave pill.” When he finally did, his first thought was “oh shit”.
He was discharged after six weeks, to be cared for by the district health nurse and his wife, Dianne, in their Rototuna home. “I couldn’t do much at all. Dianne was my full-time nurse at home. I couldn’t even go to the toilet on my own.” Medical supplies bandages, creams, pills etc used to fill their home. That has become a small supply in a portable trolley next to their couch, but even they’re hardly used, he said.
His biggest physical barrier was being unable to use his hands. “You use your hands with everything you do, even just moving round in bed. Mine were all strapped up with splints so I had to use my elbows a lot to shift around.” Now, however, he is independent. He’s back at the gym lifting light weights and is driving again. Come summer he wants to be out on the golf course and going fishing with friends.
It’s taken nine operations over the past four months to reach this stage. Most were skin grafts: the backs of both hands, left side of his face, ear and head and upper and lower eyelids on both sides.
He had to have a little finger amputated and more recently two operations to fix his eyelids, which haven’t been closing properly.
To help with healing he wears compression garments a full-head mask, gloves and a perspex face mask “24 hours a day”, or for as long as possible. He also wears a “mouth stretcher”, a metal device placed in the mouth like a mouthguard, with a knob to slowly turn and stretch the sides of the mouth.
His hair is also growing back.
Medical staff have been impressed with his recovery, particularly his hands as he’s been able to wear the compression gloves for longer periods of time.
Beanland is contemplating a return to work next April, a year after the blast.
“Once a firefighter always a firefighter. And, I guess the fact I don’t remember the two vital hours. I don’t remember the fire or explosion … (I last remember ) standing beside the truck and then the doctor telling me he was going to put some staples in my head.” Two of his injured mates have already returned. Cameron Grylls was back at the station about two weeks after the blast, Dennis Wells about three weeks ago. Brian Halford, Adrian Brown and Alvan Walker are still recovering.
As the date gets nearer for the completion of reports on the fire, Beanland says the only thing he wants is to see that it doesn’t happen again.
Beanland has seen fellow injured firefighter Merv Neil several times and told the paper “he’s doing extremely well and as far as I know they’re very happy with the way he’s going.”
In an understatement Beanland said of the family’s trials that it had been “a very trying couple of years … but you can’t rewind the clock and say ‘perhaps we don’t go to that call. You’ve just got to deal with what’s happened.”