Eli’s story

Eli has shown his bravery over and over again – first to protect his younger siblings from a fire, and then learning to live a happy and positive life after suffering serious burns injuries.

The Toowoomba teen shared memories of the day, around Easter this year, which changed his life.

“I was at home with my younger sister, making donuts. There was a pot of hot oil going on the stove, although it was turned off,” he recalled.

“The pot of oil caught on fire and a fire started. I thought the house might burn down so I told my younger siblings to get outside. I put some gloves on and tried to carry the pot of oil outside.

“My younger brothers had gone next door to get help. The neighbour came straight over and as she was running through the door she collided with me. The oil went over my arms and legs in a massive fire wall, a bit on my face and on my neighbour’s foot.

“I ran outside, tried to get rid of the flames, stepped in the dog’s water bowl and hosed myself down to get cool.”

Eli said “instinct took over” when trying to cool himself down.

The ambulance arrived quickly, but there was a long journey ahead.

“I was in hospital for three weeks,” he recalled.

“I had skin grafts on all 10 toes and the tops of my feet, and in a couple of other spots. They took the skin from all around my thigh for the grafts.

“I also had escharotomy, a procedure where the scars from full thickness burns are cut to release the pressure. So, I have a nice big scar, with internal stitches, but scar management will eventually take care of this.

“I’m glad I was able to think while it was happening, that I had the knowledge not to put water on the flames, but to put them out and then get water on my burns.”

“I think I went into shock. When the ambulance came, then it really hit me. I went to Toowoomba Base Hospital and the paramedics were amazing. I nearly got a helicopter ride to Brisbane, but another child came in who wasn’t as stable, so they got the helicopter and I got an ambulance to Brisbane.”

Eli’s mum Amy explained that her son needed six general anaesthetics while in hospital. “He is now starting outpatient visits and getting fitted for his pressure garments. He will need to wear these on his arms, legs and feet for six to 12 months, perhaps longer, depending on how he goes.”

Eli, who loves Aussie rules football, started working on a rehabilitation program with an occupational therapist and physiotherapist when he returned home to help with flexibility due to the grafts. He has received the go-ahead to start playing again.

Displaying such a strong attitude, Eli said he was glad the experience happened to him, and not his parents or siblings.

“It was a good experience in some ways. I’ve seen the other side of life."

“And, I’m always up for a bit of a challenge.”

His parents said there was no denying their son is a hero.

“He was so positive about it all, and tough, even when the paramedics came to get him, he told them he was okay,” Amy recalled.

“This was amazing, especially given the thick and extensive burns from hot oil, especially on his feet. The flash fire from the oil largely missed his face, he had gloves on his hands and the bottom of his feet weren’t burned, so we are thankful for that. Eli takes on a lot of responsibility, takes it all in his stride. He is positive and motivated. We think he’s awesome.”

Eli is now working towards a career as a firefighter through the Air Force.

Eli is one of 19 ambassadors for the Woolworths Regional Wall Tokens campaign.

By purchasing a $2 wall token from now until the end of September, you are helping fund equipment and programs in your local hospital, which help families like Eli’s through an emotional, stressful, and at times uncertain journey.

Woolworths Regional Wall Tokens is an opportunity to highlight some of the brave kids throughout Queensland and northern New South Wales, who you can help by purchasing a wall token.

Other ways you can help

Everything we do for sick and injured kids is made possible by the generosity and support of our donors, partners and the community.