REAL LIFE

I was scarred for life by air freshener

Trena Roberts didn't know of the danger lurking in her bathroom

Trena Roberts, 43, was sprayed with an automatic air freshener as she stepped out for a ciggie. Then she was engulfed in flames. Here, she tells her story in her own words.

Letting out a deep sigh, I plodded wearily to the bathroom. It was a hot, sticky night and after a long shift at my job as a nurse, I was exhausted.

My husband Duncan, 44, was already asleep, and my bed was calling me.

But before I went to sleep, I wanted to use the toilet and have one last cigarette.

As I washed my hands, my Air Wick Life Scents automatic air freshener on top of the nearby bathroom cabinet shot a spray of fragrance near my left-hand side.

I didn’t think anything of it and headed out to my garden to have my ciggie.

As I lit up, a tiny piece of ash fell onto my nightshirt and instinctively I swept it away with my right hand.

But that’s when the unthinkable happened. 

xx
Trena Roberts (Credit: Medavia)

Suddenly, I was blinded by a hot, angry, burst of light. I gasped in horror as I realised my shirt was on fire.

Flames erupted all over me – and were spreading fast.

I screamed as the inferno engulfed my whole body, making it hard to see.

Panic-stricken, I tried to wriggle out of my shirt, but the flames were too fierce and I could feel my flesh burning.

I was a human fireball!

Oh my God, I’m going to die, I thought.

That’s when I remembered seeing something on television about rolling on the ground to put out flames.

Throwing myself down, I frantically rolled, feeling searing pain everywhere.

Somehow, while flailing about the place, I managed to rip off my nightie, leaving it charred on the grass.

As shock kicked in, I ran inside screaming, not knowing what to do. I didn’t dare look down at my naked body, which I knew had been badly burned.

xx
Trena Roberts suffered fourth degree burns (Credit: Medavia)

Duncan woke up and ran bleary-eyed out into the hallway – a look of pure horror on his face when he saw my chargrilled body.

‘Call an ambulance!’ I screamed.

‘Oh my God,’ he muttered. ‘Get in the shower, now!’

As Duncan phoned for help, and the water fell on my skin, it was already beginning to blister and I didn’t know whether I was going to vomit or faint.

‘I was having a cigarette and all of a sudden I was on fire,’ I told him.

Thankfully, the paramedics arrived in minutes, and at hospital, I was seen immediately.

‘You’ve got fourth-degree burns,’ a doctor explained. ‘We’re going to need to do an emergency skin graft. Do you have any idea what could have happened?’

With the pain relief starting to kick in, I was able to think clearly for the first time since the incident.

Suddenly, I remembered the air freshener spraying near me.

xx
Trena Roberts needed skin grafts (Credit: Medavia)

‘Those things are highly flammable,’ the doctor said. ‘It’s likely that it got on your shirt, which then reacted when the ash fell on you. It’s extremely unfortunate, but I’d say you’re lucky to be alive,’ he added.

As I was taken in for an emergency skin graft, I started to cry.

The shock and pain were almost too much to bear.

‘It’ll be okay,’ Duncan said. ‘I’ll be waiting for you when you come out.’

When I woke up from the four-hour operation, the doctors said they used skin from my thigh to help repair the burns across the left side of my body.

But the damage was so severe, I was told I’d need a further skin graft and laser surgery down the line.

‘So much of your flesh was burned, there was only a few millimetres left before the bone,’ the doctor said.

xx
Trena Roberts – Her burns slowly healed (Credit: Medavia)

I had to stay in hospital for over two weeks and, a year on, I’m still having treatment.

I’ve had to undergo laser surgery four times in a bid to reduce the scarring.

And when I feel under my ribs, there’s no muscle or flesh under the skin – it’s been burned away.

My body looks awful, my skin constantly itches and I’m in pain every day.

As well as the physical injuries, I’ve been left with mental scars too.

I still have nightmares about that day and I can’t bear to look at myself in
the mirror.

Self-conscious about my scars, I don’t even like Duncan seeing my body anymore. I still can’t believe how it happened.

Air Wick in the UK, where it happened, did investigative tests which showed that there are no issues with the product.

But these things need better warnings.

After becoming a human fireball, I’m just so lucky to be alive.

Now I’m focusing on my future. 

xx
Trena Roberts is looking to the future (Credit: Medavia)

Related stories