Written for HoP by Paul Gleeson
At first ,I wasn't one hundred percent sure what to write in this article about my accident, or whether or not it was even important enough to write about. But it's having an enormous impact on my life at the moment, and I suppose that's reason enough. I guess I decided that it's important to remind people that accidents can happen, sometimes big and sometimes small, and it's important to be safe!
My names Paul, I'm 18years old and live in Ireland. I had been spinning SOCK POI for about two/three months and was waiting for my school's summer exams to finish before i began spinning fire.The first time I spun fire I felt invincible! it was such an incredible feeling, and it went down without a glitch! After about two weeks of spinning fire, I felt confident enough to perform in front of my friends at a party, which was being held to celebrate the end of exams and the start of summer! Every time i think about it now though, I wish I had never gone at all.
I had my friend prepared to act as a safety guy,with a wet towel and a bottle of water. I stupidly thought that nothing could go wrong, and that he was only there as a precaution. I was performing in the back garden of the apartment at the bottom of a staircase leading up to the door, with plenty of space around me to spin safely. I decided that i'd do three medium length performances for my friends, and then finish up.
The first three went pretty much perfectly for me, and my friends were enjoying every second of it, cheering me on and encouraging me to do another short display, my gut told me to stop, but at the same time I wanted to impress my friends. So I began spinning again, but this is where the trouble began.
As i moved in to do the Buzzsaw move(the big massive wheel yoke!) I saw my friends eyes light up with excitement, but then the POI hit gently off my cotton vest, so I outstretched my arms further to try and avoid this. Again, their eyes lit up, firstly of excitement...but then of fear. They began pointing quickly and worriedly to the bottom of my vest, which had suddenly caught fire! But the thing is it wasn't a small little flame, the entire lower half of my vest was engulfed in flames in a second,which quickly spread to the back of my vest.
I panicked. I screamed for my friend with the wet towel to help, and he ran towards me with it but then as he tried to cover up the flames his fingers got burnt and he dropped the towel! Every time I tell this story, people always ask "why didn't you just drop and roll", well, to tell the truth I was in such shock and panic that it didn't occur to me. Instead I was flailing around like a headless chicken...on fire(KFC!)! I was trying desperately to pull the vest over my head but each time I put my hand on the vest it burnt the Sh*t out of my hands, and it felt impossible. At the same time, I was trying to pick up the wet towel from the ground. But each time I bent down, the flames hit me in the face! I can honestly say i've never been so scared in my life.
Everybody there was in such shock and disbelief that they just froze up and didn't know what to do.
Through some miracle(the bottle of water), a tiny section of my vest was extinguished so I seized the opportunity and ripped my vest over my head and flung it on the ground. Relief is not the word! But strangely, I felt pretty much ok for someone who had been on fire for about 40 seconds! I even cracked a joke to try and calm everyone down-"does anyone else smell burning?".
When I looked at my chest it looked as if a lot of skin had peeled off-but nothing too major. It turns out that I was only ok because of the adrenaline rush of escaping the vest. That wore off after about three minutes when I ran to the bathroom to get cold water on it immediately! The burns felt so hot, that no amount of cold water could detract from the pain.
I took my friends advice and decided to go to the hospital. An ambulance was called and so was a taxi and whichever arrived at the house first we'd take to the hospital. Looking back on it now, an ambulance probably would've been smarter, but of course the taxi came first. Cutting along journey short we arrived at the hospital after a long car ride in agony. I was brought into A&E straight away where they coated my chest with this cold cream stuff, which felt kind nice on the burns!
The doctor then came into the cubicle, and asked in an Australian accent "hello! have you been burned??"...as if the massive BURN MARKS on my chest didn't give it away! She then inserted a catheter into me....let's just say I'd rather be on fire for another 40seconds than have one of those in me. I was put on a drip, and an oxygen mask and pumped with Morphine. All which helped make me more comfortable and drowsy. The first time I actually felt like crying was when my girlfriend came storming into the cubicle with tears in her eyes. She looked real scared for me, and I felt really guilty just lying there because I ruined everyone's night and they were all worried sick about me! My bro was pacing up and down outside as well not knowing what to say, or do, to try and help.
I just felt really bad,and selfish.
I was transferred to a burns ward on the other side of the city,where they told me that I had 2nd degree Burns on my chest directly over the Sternum (which controls important things like breathing). These burns hurt like nothing else, I swear to god! In the morning the pain was worse! But thanks to Morphine and the nurses of St. James' hospital Dublin, it gradually got less painful. I was in Hospital for a week, and then asked them if they'd let me go home and suprisingly they said "yes".
Now I'm just hanging around spinning GLOW POI all the time. Fire scares the hell out of me. At first they were considering a skin graft, but then decided it wouldn't make a difference. In about a months time I will be getting a pressure vest which I will have to wear 24/7 for 18 months to stop the scar from expanding outwards.
I'm just happy and lucky that my face or arms weren't hurt to badly. It could've been a lot worse. In the hospital burns ward i was in there were 5 other guys. One had to have his Eye amputated, another had to have his leg amputated, another had to get skin grafts on his whole triceps area and back, and the last guy was an alcoholic who had to wait to be operated on because his liver was so damaged from drinking so much, he wouldn't make it through the operation. I felt as though my injuries were like a graze, in comparison to these unfortunate guys.
I guess as a final note I should just say always be really careful when you are spinning,and make sure there is enough equipment on site to deal with
any accidents. Extinguishers do cost alot, but its worth it to stay safe! Always try to stay calm in the event of an accident and remember to stop, drop and roll.
Poi is such an amazing art form and it's unbelievable fun, just make sure you're confident and safe before you start spinning fire. The oldies got one thing right, "if you play with fire, you are going to get burnt".
Thanks to anyone who read this to the end!