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Real life case-study – Martin’s story

Martin Fearnley was two years old when he was burned as a result of playing with matches. In this extremely personal piece, Martin kindly shares his personal story, explaining why his life with burn scars haven’t held him back.

My name is Martin and I have now reached the tender age of 60. At the start of 2022, with the arrival of the new year, I decided that I wanted to give something back, to help people, volunteer, try to make a difference and help others along the way, and the fact that I was burnt led me down this path.

As a child of 2.5 years old I suffered severe burns through playing with matches. I was in a coma for nearly 2 weeks and told I may lose my sight. I had picked up the matches as an inquisitive child after they had fallen through a hole in my mum’s apron after she had earlier lit a fire which had been secured safely.

My mum was in another room hoovering and had shut the door to not let the noise of the hoover drown out the TV which my sister and I had been watching. Unbeknown to my mum she walked in to find me in a ball of flames, having not being able to hear me screaming due to the noise of the hoover and TV.

Whilst she was alive, my mum used to blame herself for the accident, but I always said to her that if it wasn’t for her quick actions when she walked into the room, I may not have been here telling this story today. My heartfelt thanks also go to the staff at Booth Hall and Alderhey hospitals in Manchester and Liverpool who cared for me and got me through those early days.

Growing up was difficult and yes, I faced the inevitable name calling , bullying etc. However, with the close support of family, friends and – just as important – my own self belief, that, despite my physical appearance I could still be the person I wanted to be , be as good as anyone else and could achieve anything that I wanted to. I have run marathons, climbed Kilimanjaro, met famous people, had relationships with good looking girls, been married, have 2 beautiful daughters, had jobs in management, run my own business, volunteered at the London Olympics, worked for over 30 years face-to-face with local communities, and much more.  

My last operation was when I was 10 years old. For many years afterwards, people have continued to ask ‘why don’t you have more skin grafts’, ‘why don’t you just have cosmetic surgery?’ . People made comments, such as ‘they can do amazing things with surgery these days which can help hide some of your scars’. But I actively chose not to, as I have always believed that what’s on the inside is more important than what is on the outside.

Yes, something terrible happened to me at a young age but I believe the experience made me who I am today, a strong, confident and outgoing person who has ignored the inevitable comments and used them as a positive. You will never be able to stop people from being inquisitive, making comments, pulling faces but it’s how you handle it that matters.

My personal experience has led me to this philosophy, which I want to share with others: be strong, be yourself, don’t hide what has happened. Believe in yourself, be confident and good things will come. Surround yourself with and embrace positive people, don’t let others stop you – the only person who can stop you is you.   I am very happy to connect with other burn survivors, or families whose child may have experienced a burn injury and are living with scars. If you send a message to the Children’s Burns Trust team they will kindly pass this on to me:

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A burn injury is for life

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