A student explained how he felt his skin melt after accidentally setting himself on fire while cooking fried chicken – leaving more than 25 percent of his body with third-degree burns.
Gage Hopkins, 21, of Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after the bizarre accident that occurred in his apartment at Arizona State University on May 26.
The political science student and his roommate Nikhil, 21, were cooking fried chicken, but forgot the oil they left in a pan on the stove. Disaster ensued when Nikhil noticed black smoke pouring from the lid.
Terrible: Gage Hopkins, 21, of Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, suffered third-degree burns over 25 percent of his body after a kitchen accident
Painful: Gage was cooking fried chicken with his roommate when they noticed black smoke coming from the pan on the stove. As he lifted the lid, flames burst into his face
“In panic, I took the lid off the jar and immediately a two to two meter flame burst in my face,” Gage recalled.
As soon as I picked up the jar, the flame was in my face. My shirt caught fire. I felt my neck burn. The skin on my hands melted to the metal handles of the jar, and that’s when I knew I had made a big mistake. ‘
The situation got worse when Gage tripped over a trash can and poured the rest of the burning oil down his legs, which also caught fire.
Gage looked at himself in his bathroom mirror and realized how dire the situation was. The cooking oil had melted his skin, leaving open wounds and blisters all over his body, the worst of his legs.
Terrifying: The situation got worse when he tripped over a trash can and poured the rest of the burning oil down his legs, which also caught fire
Nightmare: Gate was taken to the Burns ICU at Valleywise Medical Center in Phoenix, where he was awakened by a nurse who felt his feet and told a doctor he was losing circulation in his left leg
Trauma: The cooking oil had melted his skin, leaving open wounds and blisters all over his body, with his legs most affected
“I yelled at my roommate to help with pain, but my vision was black and I couldn’t see,” he said. “Honestly, I believe seeing what my skin looked like kept me awake and alert because I knew if I blacked out I would be in a lot more danger.”
While his roommate called emergency services, Gage left their apartment to avoid smoke inhalation. He waited 15 minutes for three firefighters and two ambulance personnel to arrive
“I thought I was in a dream, I couldn’t believe what was going on, my heart was beating, I was dizzy and I knew my body was losing a lot of water,” he said.
“All I remember after that is that I was taken out again at over a hundred degrees with the sun shining on me and put in the back of the ambulance.”
Remnants: The pants Gage was wearing at the time of the accident had burned out
Au: Gage said he felt the skin of his hands melt to the metal handles of the jar
Eng: Gage was at risk of having his leg amputated, but luckily medical staff were able to return circulation to his badly burned limb
Gate was taken to the Burns ICU at Valleywise Medical Center in Phoenix, where he was awakened by a nurse who felt his feet and told a doctor he was losing circulation in his left leg.
A doctor came in with a clipboard and a piece of paper asking for permission to amputate my left leg. Without hesitation, I ticked the “no” box and broke, ”he recalled.
Fortunately, the medical staff were able to return circulation to his leg by thoroughly cleaning the wound. Over the next three days, Gage underwent four skin grafts on his legs, arms, and face using the skin on his thighs.
‘Bandage changes were by far the most painful thing I’ve experienced, other than being burnt. I would never wish anyone what happened to me, ”he said.
Awful: Gage said his dressing changes were the most painful he’s ever been through
Support: Gage is now out of the hospital and is recovering at home with his girlfriend and his parents
Celebration: Gage was still able to enjoy his milestone 21st birthday with friends and family
All smiles: The political science student at Arizona State University is in the picture with his girlfriend on his birthday
After five weeks of recovery, Gage was fired and returned to Pennsylvania, where he continues his outpatient rehab and undergoes physical therapy four times a week. To this day he still suffers daily from nerve pain, severe itching and discomfort due to his tight skin.
While the physical symptoms of the burns gradually improve, the psychological effects of such a traumatic accident remain with the student.
“My psychiatrist was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and it has been difficult for me, my family and my girlfriend,” said Gage, who now suffers from panic attacks.
“I always ask myself,” Why did I get the pot? What would have happened if I just pushed the pan off the heat? Why didn’t my roommate respond? ” I also get my nightmares, but I have to learn to deal with them. ‘
End result: While the physical symptoms of the burns gradually get better, Gage now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and panic attacks
Outlook: Gage said the accident changed his life and he is now more positive
New Perspective: Gage said he is grateful to be alive after his traumatic accident
Gage said the accident changed his life, and while he is doing better, he still has a long way to go before he gets back to his version of ‘normal’.
“Everyone knows the common saying, ‘Don’t take life for granted,’ but frankly, I took life for granted before my accident,” he said. ‘Now I realize that any day can be your last. A freak accident could happen, boom, you’re gone forever.
“Before my accident, I wasn’t the most positive person in the world and even my girlfriend told me she noticed a change in my positivity,” he continued.
‘I believe I responded positively because I am grateful to be alive after my accident, it could have been a lot worse if I didn’t wear what I was wearing.
“Being depressed and negative in this situation would have been the worst for me, as it would have shown that I am not grateful to be alive today.”