Metrorail fire victim speaks after months in hospital: 'I’ll never take the train again' (Warning: graphic image)

2018-08-03 14:52
Leigh Jansen. (Photo: Supplied)

Leigh Jansen. (Photo: Supplied)

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It’s been a little over two months since she was critically injured when the train she was travelling in caught alight.

The horrific ordeal, which is thought to be an arson attack, left Leigh Jansen, 42, with third degree burns to her face and upper body.

After 34 days at Tygerberg Hospital, Leigh was finally released on 2 July and has spent the last month recovering at her flat in Southfield, a neighbourhood in the southern suburbs of Cape Town.

"Emotionally I feel as if I am on a roller coaster as each day is different," Leigh tells us when we check in to see how she’s doing now.

"Triggers of the event is rife. I have not pursued the option of a counsellor yet as I am first dealing with the physical issues of the attack."

READ: Metrorail train fire: Critically-injured mom wasn't supposed to take that train

Leigh underwent two skin grafts during her stay at the hospital. The first was done after she had just come off the ventilator and the second one three weeks later.

Skin was taken from her right thigh and used to replace the skin on her face and neck.

Back in June, when YOU first spoke to her mother Ursula Schenker, 65, she told us that Leigh spent the first four days of her stay in hospital with her eyes closed because of the damage to her face.

It took her eight days to regain the ability to speak and, during that time, she had to communicate via hand signals. Only after 11 days, Ursula was allowed to bring her some fruit and yogurt.

Leigh now tells us she still has a long road to recovery.

"Physically I feel like a granny. My pace in everything I used to do has been slowed at an alarming rate. Breathing, walking, light house chores and even talking is a challenge.

"I was advised that the full recovery of the facial wounds may take up to two years and that further treatment will be needed for other organs that may be compromised."

Because of the time she spent on a ventilator, Leigh’s trachea (or windpipe) has been damaged, which is what’s causing her discomfort when she speaks.

"At present my trachea is only about 2mm in diameter and it should be 8mm," she explains.

Leigh Jansen. (Supplied)

She’s set to have a procedure done at Mediclinic Panorama in Cape Town. 

"The procedure to widen the trachea is not high risk but is very delicate."

Leigh has no issue when it comes to dealing with the change in her physical appearance and doesn’t shy away from being seen in public.

"I have always been a grounded individual which is now standing me in good stead."

However, the trauma of the ordeal is still raw.

"I haven’t even touched the surface of dealing with it and believe it will take a long time for me to fully accept the affects it has had on me.

"I am told that I’m brave, strong, a hero and fighter by my family, friends and complete strangers who have been following the story.

"But I haven’t embraced it yet because I haven’t realised the enormity of what I did and went through to stay alive."

She adds that she still has her moments of anger, but it is all part of dealing with the trauma of the incident.

The family are still unbending in taking Metrorail to task and Leigh tells us they will communicate with the railway operator via legal representation.

ALSO READ: Train fire victim to take Metrorail to court

Will she ever take the train again?

No, is her fast and firm reply.

"I think the 25 years I spent commuting via train has been enough. My trust in their ability to manage the rail system has been completely eroded."

The incident might have dimmed her outlook on the use of the public transport, but it’s only brightened her view of life.

"My immediate family have been amazing from day one. Especially my mother and god mother, who visited me every single day until I was discharged. I also have a small and strong group of friends who have been my rock. My work colleagues have been amazing and supportive throughout.

"For now my priority is to progress physically and take it one day, one step at a time."

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Read more on:    metrorail  |  prasa  |  cape town  |  fires

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