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Danny Howard’s skin melted away when he sustained “the most excruciating pain” he had ever felt in his life. The 33-year-old man was rushed to hospital where medics treated the fourth degree burns and gave him morphine.
Danny, a self-employed plasterer, decided to take his young family to Barmouth Beach in Gwynedd, Wales, a two-hour journey from their home in Chester on Sunday May 30.
But, as Wales Online reports, disaster struck one hour after the family used two disposable barbecues to cook burgers and hotdogs.
Danny described the pain as “25 out of 10”.
Though the barbecue trays – which had been burning for about 45 minutes – were cold by the time Danny moved them, he said that all of the heat of the coal had been transferred to the sand.
The father of six said: “Sand is just like glass at the end of the day, so it’s just going to absorb all of the heat. I don’t know how far that heat will travel down into the sand, but it’s quite a good insulator and it was a really hot day as well, so there was probably no escape for the heat.
“I’ve got second, third and fourth degree burns all around the bottom of my foot.”
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE BELOW
A huge blister formed on Danny’s foot. With their cars parked far away from where they pitched camp, Danny said he had to grit his teeth and walk with just a sock on while they carried back all their belongings over the sand dunes.
He spent another two hours driving his kids home to Chester, before finally taking himself to the hospital.
He recalled using his “big toe” to drive his van and admitted he doesn’t know how he did it.
Though he considered going to a nearer hospital, by the time they left it was already 9pm and getting late for his young children, who are aged between 18 months and ten years old.
The plasterer said: “They’d been driving for four hours just to be out of the vehicles for an hour. I felt like I’d ruined their day to be honest.
“I didn’t want them to be hanging around in a hospital, so I got them home first and I went straight to Chester A&E.”
When he got to the hospital, medics cut away the thick blister that had formed. The hot sand had seared through two layers of his skin.
After being bandaged up he was sent home with ibuprofen and paracetamol. But these did nothing to reduce the unbearable pain, which he said has nearly left him in tears.
“I had to go back the next day because the pain was excruciating. They re-bandaged it and there was thickening, forming a hole in the centre. Thickening is what they call a fourth degree burn.”
After being given codeine, which he said also did nothing to reduce the pain, Danny was transferred to a burns specialist centre in Whiston, Merseyside, on Friday June 4, where they gave him morphine and strong anti-inflammatories.
Doctors told him that if he had gone to the burns specialist unit straight away, he might have been able to have a skin graft for the fourth degree burn.
But because the area around the hole had started healing, a graft would just cause more damage.
The doctors at Whiston wanted Danny to stay overnight because there were signs of infection in his leg, but Danny chose alternative treatment to suit his busy home life.
He said: “They wanted to put me on a 24-hour drip. But obviously because I have a lot of children at home I asked for an alternative treatment, so they gave me some stronger antibiotics to take. The reddening has gone down now, it seems to have subsided.”
Danny is currently managing the “agonising pain” of the hole at home with the painkillers as he waits for it to heal.
He is unable to walk at all, but manages to hop and crawl around about two or three hours after taking his medication in the morning.
The rest of the time, when his foot is relaxed, there is a throbbing sensation in his foot, which feels like “it has its own heartbeat”.
He anticipates he will have to stay home to heal for six to 12 weeks, with weekly appointments at the burns unit, before he can return to work or live normally.
He added: “Then I’m going to have physio to get my foot stretched. I don’t think my foot will ever be the same again.
“I’ve got six kids to try and cater for. I’ve always worked and it’s just not my style to be sat at home. I’ve got so much I need to do, so much I need to pay for. The bills are piling up.
He currently relies heavily on his wife, who he says has been “the superhero of the house”.
Danny said: “She’s been helping me move around, she’s been bathing my foot, she’s been changing the bandages, she’s been putting the iodine on, as well as looking after all the kids in the house. In the mornings I’m literally crawling around on my hands and knees. She’s been my absolute rock.
Danny said he wants to raise awareness of the dangers of such barbecues on beaches, especially if young children are around.
He continued: “I’ve got an 18-month-year-old, a four-year-old, a five-year-old and I thought if one of them had touched it it would have just obliterated their feet.
“It’s not something you consider a risk. You think the children are more at risk from falling onto it and stepping onto it – that’s what you tend to look out for. I think these barbecues should have a warning to take more care and precautions on sandy areas.
“If I’d never stood on the sand and I’d packed up my barbecue and gone away, somebody could have walked across that spot five minutes with their dog or a small kid and nobody would have known. You can’t even tell the sand is hot.
“There were a couple of barbecues going on all around us as well. Obviously when people pack up and leave, even when they take the barbecue there, that sand has absorbed all the heat and people aren’t even going to be aware of that and could stand on it.”
Danny thinks the barbecue kits should come with signs that users can put up to mark out the area where a barbecue has been used.
He said: “If people are having a barbecue on the beach, they should leave a little flag in the ground, just to let people know.
“They need to leave signs for people, saying ‘Please be aware, there’s a barbecue that has been here in the last hour’, or flags you can put in the sand that say ‘hotspot’ or something.”
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