Tahsis resident Lynda Llewellyn suffered burns to 80 per cent of her body in 1983 and now speaks in support of the B.C. Professional Firefighters Burn Fund and Hometown Heroes Lottery. Photo submitted

Island burn survivor tells her story in support of B.C. Burn Fund

She and her infant son survived devastating fire

Thirty-six years ago, 80 per cent of Lynda Llewellyn’s body was burned in a devastating fire that nearly took her life and the life of her then-four-year-old son.

“I woke up to find my son sitting in the middle of my living room totally surrounded by flames,” Llewellyn said of that morning, Feb. 4, 1983.

Somebody had left matches in her Edmonton home and her son found them. The matches weren’t Llewellyn’s, she doesn’t smoke.

“The firemen figure that from the time he dropped the first match to the time I found him totally engulfed in flames was probably under five minutes,” Llewellyn said.

Her son, Adam, was unresponsive to her calls.

“So I ran through the flames, picked him up and tucked him under my arm,” Llewellyn said.

They lived on the third floor of an apartment building with no balcony and no elevator. She made her way to her bedroom, went to the window and opened it up. She saw her neighbours down below and they told her they had already called the fire department and she could actually hear the sirens coming.

“But my hands were burnt so bad I couldn’t hold onto Adam any longer and I dropped him down three stories to a neighbour,” Llewellyn said. “It was probably the scariest part of the whole thing for me.”

The neighbour caught him and put her son in a bathtub full of cool water which stopped the burning process – consequently, his burns never went as deep as they would on his mother. Adam was burned to 40 per cent of his body and spent two months in hospital and had two surgeries. He wound up only ever getting grafts on his hands, the rest healed on its own, leaving some scarring on his hands and back.

“But he’s now 41-years-old, lives in Sicamous (B.C.) and is a vibrant, healthy human being that I am so happy is still here,” Llewellyn said.

Llewellyn suffered burns to 80 per cent of her body with 40 per cent of the burn going to full thickness of her skin. She would spend eight months in hospital, two years doing physiotherapy and had her last surgery 13 years later.

Llewellyn lives in Tahsis now. In fact, she was elected to Tahsis village council last fall. That fateful day in 1983 is still vivid in her mind but she shares her story whenever she can. Llewellyn began teaching burn prevention in schools 15 years after her accident.

And she supports the B.C. Professional Firefighters Burn Fund and its fundraising Hometown Heroes Lottery. Hometown Heroes Lottery ticket purchases raise funds for specialized adult health services and research for all British Columbians. Funds drive innovation and sustainable health care at VGH, UBC Hospital, GF Strong Rehab Centre, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and Vancouver Community Health Services. Funds also support Burn Fund programs including the annual Burn Camp for young burn survivors.

The Burn Fund, particularly with the opening of the Burn Fund Centre in Vancouver, provides an opportunity for families to receive support and to find each other. Llewellyn stresses that it’s important for burn survivors and their families to talk to people who have gone through the same experience.

“It’s particularly important for the survivors and their families to have support,” Llewellyn said, “particularly in the beginning during the traumatic events because it can be very isolating, I think, particularly for families if they don’t have somebody they can talk to about what’s going on with their loved one laying in a hospital bed.”

For more information about the fund and to buy Hometown Heroes Lottery tickets, visit www.heroeslottery.com.