A mum who was placed into an induced coma after her house exploded in Seven Sisters, Neath has said that the coronavirus pandemic meant she spent months not able to see her two children who were also injured in the blast.
31-year-old Jessica and sons Reuben, five, and Elliott, two, miraculously survived the explosion.
Jessica was rushed to Morriston Hospital and placed into an induced coma. She spent 14 weeks in hospital being treated for a punctured lung, several broken ribs and her kidneys were failing. She has also suffered serious burns to 70 per cent of her body.
The boys were air-lifted to Southmead Hospital in Bristol where they were treated for serious injuries, where they spent three weeks.
Jessica says the coronavirus pandemic made things much more difficult for the family as initially she was only able to have visitors through a glass panel.She said: "I couldn't see the boys and that was heartbreaking. Michael [Jessica's fiancé] was the only one who was allowed to visit but in ICU obviously I was very vulnerable at the time so he could only come to the window and speak through there. So while it was lovely to see him, it's just not the same is it as having someone with you."When Jessica woke from the induced coma after a month she remembered what had happened but had no idea whether her sons had survived.
In a now closed investigation, South Wales Police concluded that the huge explosion was most likely caused by a "combination of ageing LPG gas and environmental conditions".LPG stands for Liquid Pressure Gas - meaning gas that is stored in cylinders or bottles as opposed to gas that is supplied through mains pipes.The explosion was likely caused by a combination of old gas cylinders and hot weather - 14 homes were evacuated while the investigation took place.Jess was released from hospital at the start of October and the family have moved into an empty house belonging to a relative.Her injuries meant that over the last four months, the young mum has had to learn how to walk and talk again.As well as the coma, she had a Tracheostomy which is a procedure that creates an opening in the throat to allow air to enter a person's lungs. Because of this, Jessica was unable to speak, swallow or eat.
Both boys have now returned to school in Ystradgynlais where Jessica worked as a pre-school leader before the explosion.She says that two-year-old Elliott is too young to understand what happened, but five-year-old Reuben often talks about the accident."Like me, he remembers everything which I think is just incredible but it has been hard listening to him talk about what happened."
As a result of the explosion, both boys spent three weeks in a specialist hospital in Bristol where they were treated for burns which have affected around 28 per cent of their bodies.
Jessica is still receiving treatment for her injuries and has to go to the hospital twice a week to get the wounds on her arms and legs re-dressed.
Before the explosion, Jessica had long dark hair which had to be shaved off. She says that while she had a "shock" when she first saw herself, she is trying to come to terms with the changes."Obviously my burns are going to be visible on my body forever which is something I just have to come to terms with slowly."I am coming to terms with it because I just think ‘well, I might have burns but at least we’re alive’ and that’s the most important thing."I think, as a woman your hair is something that makes you feel nice and to have that shaved off was a massive shock and I was really upset about it."And I know a lot of people will say ‘it’s just hair’ but it is important to me. Once it grows back it’ll be fine - It’s just something I’ve got to live with now and think of the positives.“I was shocked when I first saw myself. When they were redressing me I could see everything and I couldn’t believe what my skin looked like.
Since the explosion, over £22,000 has been raised to help rebuild the family home, with local tradesmen volunteering to help.The family had lived on Church Road for five years before the incident. They had moved there when Reuben was one, and it was the only home Elliott had ever known.The re-build is now well underway, with work to clear the site and assess the damage starting just a month after the explosion. Jessica says the family are 'blown away' by the kindness of the community."The support we’ve had has just been incredible, I can't thank everyone enough. Everyone's been so supportive. Friends and family, they’ve just done everything."And then there’s the community, we’ve had so many donations. Clothes, toys for the boys, money - the amount of money that’s been raised has been incredible.
"And obviously with the house being rebuilt as well - I’m just blown away by it all.
"There have been loads of tradesmen and builders and stuff come forward and offer to help with the rebuild and I just can’t believe it - you don't think people would be that kind."We’re just a little family and to think that people really care that much to rebuild our whole house back up, I can’t get over it."Jessica and the family are now living around a mile from their previous home. Despite this, Jessica says it is still too difficult to revisit the scene of the explosion.Looking to the future, while Jessica realises she still has a long road to recovery, she is remaining positive and wants to continue working to get back to herself.