Val's Story      

My life changed forever on 23rd January 1998. It was about 2pm in the afternoon when we experienced a problem landing our small plane at a friend’s farm in Jerramungup. The plane crashed and caught fire and in the moments after, both the pilot and myself managed to get free. Sadly the pilot lost his wife and I lost my husband and best friend, Bob whom I’d been happily married to for 30 years.

Fortunately for us the accident happened close to the farmhouse so our friends immediately put me under the shower till the wonderful people from the local nursing post arrived to help. The pilot had 60% burns and I had 85%. I remember nothing after this. Apparently it took 2 hours to stabilise us before the RFDS could fly us to RPH at about 9pm.

For 3 months I remember very little. There were operations, complications, infections, terrifying dreams and hallucinations from the strong pain medications and trips back to ICU. During this time parts of all my fingers had to be amputated and on more than one occasion I wasn’t expected to live. I can only imagine what my family must have been going through during this difficult time.

Over the next few months my days were filled with painful showers, dressings and physio with Dale.

Facing my facial disfigurement was one of the hardest things mentally I had to overcome. Your face is a very important part of ‘who you are’ and to look in a mirror at someone you don’t recognise at all is very confronting, especially as there was so much scarring and parts missing entirely. As you can imagine there were many tears before I accepted the ‘new me’. Thankfully the team have done a wonderful job reconstructing my face.

After 10 months I was ready to go home – a very different home. My husband was gone and I was incapable at that time of being alone. Because of my limited movements I couldn’t clean my teeth, even reach a light switch and could only eat with modified utensils. This is where I’m so grateful for my wonderful, loving family and friends who had supported me right through my ordeal. My daughter, Marnie had been living in Melbourne but come back to Perth immediately after the accident and stayed to help during my months in hospital and once I returned home. 

My daily routine included Marnie or home nurses handling showering, do dressings and put me in a full body suit. I would take a taxi to the gym at RPH with Dale for an hour 4 days a week. I continued to improve to the point where I needed my independence so I applied and received my driver’s license – which felt like total freedom at last. By this time Marnie had moved out to lead her own life.

Nineteen years on, my life to me is pretty normal. I now have 5 beautiful grandchildren whom I get to visit often or have them stay over. I still love gardening, cooking and socialising. I have a very busy life. 

I still have ongoing health problems – infections which seem to be more often as I get older. I also find it very hard in summer not being able to regulate my body temperature. A lot of time is spent indoors with the airconditioner on, not my favourite place to be.

Despite all this I’m so grateful for the life I lead. How can words convey my gratitude to Fiona and her dedicated team in the Burns Unit for their wonderful care, compassion and support over the years. I’m so grateful to all of you.

Special love and thanks to my children Marnie, Rob, Jane and all my family and friends who have supported me through my highs and lows over the years.


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