By Rebecca Cooley via SWNS
A mom is lucky to be alive after a huge gas explosion blew her house up with her still inside - as she hadn't noticed the leak due to losing her sense of SMELL to COVID-19.
Tamara McLean had just put a load of laundry in the dryer in her basement and was halfway up the stairs when she was hit by a blast as a gas leak triggered a huge explosion that destroyed her home.
The 45-year-old says she had lost her sense of smell as she had been isolating herself with COVID-19 at the time and so couldn't smell the leak, which had been filling her house with propane.
After fleeing to the nearest fire station, she was then air-lifted to hospital and admitted to the ICU with second-degree burns covering almost a third of her body.
Shocking photos show how the blast demolished her home and left it a smoldering pile of rubble around a burnt-out shell - while Tamara lay in the burns unit with horrendous wounds.
The special needs teacher is still undergoing treatments on her skin almost a year since the explosion on October 15 last year, due to the severity of the burns she suffered.
Tamara, from Embden, Maine, US, said: "I had Covid so I could not smell, could not taste, and it was my last day of quarantine so I was heading out with my friends.
"I was putting a load of laundry in the dryer. My whole house was propane - my dryer, heater, hot water tank - all of that was fuelled off propane.
"I hit the dryer button and was on my way upstairs from my basement and an explosion went off.
"It blew me back but I grabbed hold of the wall and was trying to figure out what had happened because it's not every day you get a feeling like that - it's like a blast of hot air that goes through you.
"I could hear my hair sizzling and I was burnt. I could feel my face and arms burnt but I just didn't know the capacity of it.
"I started seeing pieces of my house fall that were lit on fire, so I finished running up the stairs and ran outside.
"I didn't look around because my main focus was getting out but my house had obviously blown up. I was in survival mode, my state of mind was 'I need to get help right now.'
"My door was already blown open and I had to jump over my chimney which was blown down.
"I got in my car - I had left my keys in the car because I live in a small town - I hit the 911 assist button and drove 4.2 miles to the fire station and that's where I got help.
"When it first happened I don't know that I was in that much pain because I was in shock."
After driving herself to the nearest fire station, Tamara was air-lifted to Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine, where she then spent a month recovering in the burn unit.
Doctors cleaned and dressed the second-degree burns on her face, arms, feet and back and then a week later stapled synthetic skin over the raw skin to close her wounds.
After a miraculous recovery, she was discharged from hospital, only to discover that her home and all of her possessions had been completely destroyed in the blast.
Tamara said: "When you are in a gas explosion like that and it goes through your body, your insides are actually burning.
"You have about four to six hours to get intubated or you won't make it because your insides are burnt and swelling.
"The pain is intense. The only way I can try to explain it is like you have a huge open wound and you have sandpaper and salt water and you're scrubbing, there's honestly no comparison.
"My daughter said that one time they were changing my bandages and it took over four hours because they had to keep taking breaks because the pain was so bad.
"My home is completely gone. It blew out so far and so much that it knocked trees over in the woods.
"There was nothing left at all, not even a toothbrush. It was all just gone."
Once released from hospital, Tamara was required to return for weekly checkups which eventually dropped down to once a month and to this day she still has frequent appointments.
She is due to start laser treatment on the worst affected area of her body later this year, her arms, as the severe burns caused contracture - uncomfortable tightening of the skin and reduced mobility.
Besides the health effects, Tamara has been dealing with the emotional strain of the change in her physical appearance, having lost all of her hair in the blast and being left with scarring from her burns.
Tamara said: "Every day I have to massage my arms because that's where I have the most burns and I can't be in the sun.
"I have a garment with silicone in it that goes all the way up to my shoulder on one side and all the way up to my elbow on the other, that I have to wear except for when I'm showering or I wash them.
"When I woke up [in the hospital] my hair was shaved - before that I had long hair.
"They gave me medication to slow my metabolism down because the burn takes all the calories to heal, so it's caused weight gain and then add scars.
"Right now it's very hard. My identity is completely different from before it happened."
The mom claims a local fire marshall determined the cause of the leak to have been on the main ground floor of her home due to the way the house exploded.
But Tamara says they were unable to find the exact cause due to the destruction of the explosion and so investigations are still underway.
In the meantime, her home insurance provider is funding her stay in a rental property as well as the reconstruction of her destroyed home.
Tamara now hopes to warn others about the risks of gas leaks and to encourage people to take extra precautions when it comes to home detectors.
Tamara said: "I'm not having propane anymore, I'm having oil.
"I would take any kind of precaution you can, even if it's a bit of money, and make sure your gas company is doing their inspections properly.
"They do make alarms for propane but it's not mandatory to have them in your home like a fire alarm and I really think it should be mandatory."
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