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My body caught on fire halfway through surgery – my insides were scorched and it took a year to recover

A patient was left traumatised when his body caught on fire halfway through surgery - leaving his insides scorched.

Mark, 52, went to hospital for a routine abscess removal - but woke up to the news that a freak accident in theatre had sparked an horrific blaze.

A diathermy machine, used to stop bleeding, caused a swab to catch fire - before flames burnt their way through his exposed flesh, Mark explained.

It took over a year for Mark - not his real name - to recover from his dreadful injuries - and the emotional scarring it caused.

Between 2008 and 2018, 37 cases were acknowledged by NHS trusts across Britain. But from 2009 to 2019, it has paid out nearly £14 million in compensation settlements and legal fees.

Fires such as these are often fuelled by leaking oxygen - and are caused by faulty machinery or sparking equipment.

Campaigners are concerned that UK hospitals are lagging behind other countries in recording surgical fires and introducing protocols to reduce both their frequency and severity.

Theatre scrub nurse Kathy Nabbie has spent the past five years trying to make colleagues more aware of the threat of surgical fires.

In 2017 - after hearing how a woman in Oregon, USA, had suffered severe burns when her face was set alight in surgery - she made a  simple safety checklist

Her Fire Risk Assessment tool allowed colleagues to check for the presence of elements that together might cause a fire to break out.

But senior staff failed to implement the initiative and - when a surgical fire actually took place three months later - Kathy learned that her laminated checklist had simply been put in a drawer.

 “I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “After that they did start using it, but why on earth should it have taken an actual fire to persuade them?”

Read full story

Source: The Sun, 7 April 2022

Further reading

What can we do to improve safety in the theatre? Reflections from theatre nurse Kathy Nabbie

How I raised awareness of fires in the operating theatre - Kathy Nabbie



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