A teenager who suffered severe burns has been given her life back after doctors helped patched half of her body using skin from deceased donors.
reports that Alexandra Hollingsworth, 18, caught fire after taking part in a dangerous game which involved igniting alcohol.
Sustaining burns to 52 per cent of her body, the woman from Memphis, has had more than 20 operations to help her recover. So far, doctors have done skin grafts on her elbows, legs, thighs, back, arms and stomach, using flesh from her legs. While skin from cadavers – decellularised dermis – was used on her chest.
She said: ‘At first, it was weird because it was much darker than my skin tone but my body’s not rejecting it and I don’t think about it unless someone asks.
‘I have no idea who the donor is, I woke up and it was on my chest.
‘I’m really grateful I was able to get that because I needed it and I’m happy that my body accepted it.’
How the fire incident happened
Miss Hollingsworth’s life changed forever in July 2010. She was playing with alcohol and matches with her brother David and cousin Benjamin at home while her mother was at work.
Some of their friends had shown them how to ignite a small flame, which previously they had managed to put out. But this time it got out of hand as there was a sudden explosion, shortly before she was engulfed by a ‘hot, orange light’. Frozen in shock, she heard a high-pitched ringing sound and realised she was on fire.
She ran into her mother’s room to remove her trousers and tried to take her shirt off, but was scared of it burning her face.
Her cousin – who escaped with no injuries – and brother then smothered her in a blanket to extinguish the flames – as her brother also suffered burns.
Miss Hollingsworth said: ‘The entire house was covered in soot and smoke and the floor of my mum’s room had caved in. I felt like my skin and eyelids were melting.
‘As we ran out of the house, I caught my reflection in the mirror. My arms were in shreds and skin was hanging off me.’
For three years, she suffered with terrifying nightmares, which only stopped once her hair began to grow back and she slowly started feeling more like her old self.
Though she still has days where she feels self conscious, she is now mostly in a good place and thinks of her scars as ‘interesting’ rather than ‘hideous’.
Now, she is using her harrowing experience to help others, by working as a volunteer counsellor for burns survivors.
She said: ‘I can really empathise with the kids and love working with them.
‘Knowing what I went through definitely helps them to trust me.
‘Fire is not something to be played with. It’s not worth it.’