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Burns happen in seconds, but impose a lifelong legacy on victims

Dedicated to supporting burn survivors and their families - and promoting the prevention of burns through awareness and education initiatives - HeroBurn has helped about 400 burn-surviving victims since its launch in 2012.

According to the World Health Organisation, almost 300,000 people per year in low- to middle-income countries lose their lives to burns.

In South African public/government hospitals there are around 8,200 burns admissions annually. 30% of patients will die.

What the statistics can’t show is how burns, which usually happen without warning, leave survivors living a low quality of life, and with life-long challenges.

Personal testimony about the impact of fire from Annerie du Plooy, founder of the HeroBurn Foundation, concerned with educating South Africans about the dangers of thermal and electrical burns, is that ‘being a burn survivor is a daily quest to survive’.

“Remarkably, Annerie, who lost her husband and father-in-law during a tragic light aircraft in Limpopo in 2008, has turned an experience which left her with 40% burns across her body into a reason for living by channelling her energies into HeroBurn, an initiative to help people reclaim their lives after burn accidents,” says Helen Barrett, National Advertising & Promotions Manager at The SPAR Group.

Dedicated to supporting burn survivors and their families – and promoting the prevention of burns through awareness and education initiatives – HeroBurn has helped about 400 burn-surviving victims since its launch in 2012.

These efforts are concentrated on post-injury assistance with the needs of those impacted who often have post-traumatic stress disorder, have their livelihoods affected and have to cope with the impact that the injuries cause on relationships.

Besides support for victims, HeroBurn also identifies and helps resolve obstacles in South Africa’s medical and legal systems, which may unintentionally impact the rights and welfare of burn survivors.

Concern for survivors is also expressed through campaigns bringing attention to the need for more specialised Burn Units in local hospitals, pointing out that there is a shortage of specialised burn units and beds dedicated solely to treating burns.

In South Africa, the incidence of burn injuries is linked to poor socioeconomic circumstances and housing environments, with scalding and flames causing most injuries.

“The facts surrounding burn injuries are addressed in educational HeroBurn pamphlets, posters, and brochures. Aimed at parents and children, the materials cover making your home safer and sets steps to take if you should be injured,” says Barrett.

Specific tips from HeroBurn include:

• Keep kids at least 1,5m away from fires and all hot items, lighters and matches.

• Make sure kettles cannot be reached by small hands.

• Turn the temperature of the geysers down so that the water is not scalding hot, and always run cold water in a bath before adding hot water.

• Never leave young children unattended in a bath.

• Don’t overload outlets (multi-plugs), use one plug per socket.

• Keep electric cords, and phone chargers away from sources of water.

• Never cover an electric wire with a carpet.

• Be on the lookout for frayed/faulty wiring on power cords.

• Store accelerants like gasoline outside the house and lock them up.

If the worst happens and your clothing catches fire or you are scalded by hot water:

• Do not run, but stop where you are, drop to the ground and roll on the ground to put out the flames.

• Place heaters 1,5m away from any object and away from water.

The things NOT to do are:

• Apply butter to burns or scalds.

• Do not apply ice to wounds.

• Apply flour, ointments, eggs, or any moisturisers.

The things TO DO are to:

• Treat the burn under cool running water for at least 20 minutes.

• Do not puncture blister.

• Keep the burn cool and the person warm. For large burns – stop cooling after 20 minutes.

• Cover the burn with something loose, light, and non-sticky – consider cling film or a plastic bag.

• Raise burned limbs to reduce swelling and pain.

• If the wound is serious, get the injured person to the hospital as soon as you can.

“Committed to education, and because of the prevalence of these injuries across the nation, The SPAR Group began supporting the organisation 2021 with an annual donation of R100,000 to help with the costs of taking burn education, brochures and support materials to schools”, continues Barrett.

“The story behind HeroBurn of a husband giving his life by shielding his wife from flames in a wrecked aircraft and her subsequent efforts to honour his name by creating the HeroBurn Foundation is inspiring and reflects on the inherent strength of many South African women who turn personal adversity into triumph through service to others.”

“With the recent devastating fires in Marshalltown in Johannesburg, we implore everyone to educate themselves around how to avoid and treat burns – and call on organisations such as HeroBurn should they need advice or assistance with recovery”, concludes Barrett.

Further information, learning materials and additional tips for burn safety can be found at www.heroburn.org.

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