Burn survivor called ‘Freddy Kruger’ by bullies reveals how she overcame her traumatic experience


This selfless burn survivor was engulfed in flames from head-to-toe after saving her friend’s life.

Hayley Doyle (32), from Rochdale in England, was constantly bullied in school and even called Freddy Kruger by her peers, which led to her suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The IT reference specialist, was only 14 years old when she was set alight in a barn filled with straw.

Hayley, who was inside the barn with her two friends, was alerted to something amiss when she heard someone yell “fire”.

One of her pals managed to escape before the barn went up in flames. Meanwhile Hayley and her remaining friend weaved their way out through the tunnels of straw bales, moving burning bales out of the way, before the whole barn was set ablaze.

But as Hayley reached the exit and pushed her friend out to safety, she was caught in a backdraft from the fire and was sucked back inside the burning barn.

The terrified teen then crawled through 10m of the straw tunnel before climbing up about 14m of the stacked straw before jumping down, all while her body was engulfed in flames.

“To this day we don’t know how I got through it. I had to crawl 10m and drop 14m. It was a massive inferno spreading and I could hear people telling me to jump. I just jumped, ran out and everything was completely ablaze,” Hayley says.

“I was completely on fire from head to toe, somebody grabbed hold of me and threw me in the horse’s water trough.

“I thought it was straw, but it was my skin coming off like string in my hands. I kept going on about my face and a woman said, ‘no your face is fine’ and she took me to her car – it was awful.”

Due to the amount of smoke she inhaled Hayley was rushed to hospital where she underwent more than 100 surgeries, including skin grafts and laser treatment.

“I think people were just in a state of panic. I had inhaled so much smoke, you swell on the outside, you close off from the inside – so it was a real emergency to get me to the hospital and on a ventilator before my airways completely closed up.

“I was in hospital initially for around five or six months, to begin with, and collectively had over one hundred operations altogether.

“Doctors had advised my mom and dad that there was a chance that they’d have to amputate my hands. I’m still recovering now I suppose because I’m still having laser surgery to help with the mobility and appearance of my scars.

“When you’re breathing in a fire, every second that you breathe burns and I was trying to shout but the flames burned me inside.

“You know the sound you make from [inhaling] a helium balloon? The sound of my voice – that’s what it was like. My voice was so damaged,” she says.

Following her traumatic ordeal, she developed severe PTSD.

She discovered that a young boy she grew up with started the blaze because he had an obsession with fire.

Hayley says the hardest part about her recovery was coming to terms with what happened and dealing with cruel comments about her burns.

“I remember the first time I saw my face. What you don’t realise is when you’re in hospital that’s like your safe haven. When you get out of hospital with your burns that’s when the recovery starts.

“Nobody can prepare you for that. At that time when I was young there wasn’t anybody out there that could relate to me and that’s what was missing for me.

“The doctors and nurses were incredible – I’ll always be grateful for what they’ve done for me because the work they’ve done from then to now is amazing.

“I used to have to wash my hands and wear pressure garments and a facemask for 23 and a half hours a day.

“Obviously I got a lot of comments. People said to me, ‘you look like you’ve got melted chewing gum on your face’, ‘you look like Freddie Kruger’,” she says.

Hayley credits acid attack survivor and friend Katie Piper, who she’s known for years, for her surge in confidence.

“Before I met Katie I lacked self-confidence. Katie’s team and foundation are what gave me a big leap up,” Hayley says.

“She’s amazing and so inspiring. She’s got such a positive outlook on life. You look up to somebody like that. I’d never really met someone that had gone through a similar experience to me before so being able to relate to someone like her really helped me regain my confidence.

“I wish the ‘now me’ could’ve spoken to me back then, you know? At the end of the day if somebody gave me a time machine and said that you could turn back time and live your life without being burned, I wouldn’t.”

Source: Magazine Features


We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24