Story by Claire Elliot
A TEENAGER who was turned into a “human fireball” after playing with a disposable lighter hopes to prevent other casualties - by joining the fire service.
Ivan Laverton, 17, was given only a 10% chance of surviving after his body was engulfed in flames during the near-fatal tragedy when he was just three.
Only his legs and face escaped the inferno, which left him with third degree burns on more than half his body.
Almost 15 years on, Ivan, from Aberdeen, still bares the scars of his ordeal and gets flashbacks of the firefighters rushing to his aid.
The extent of his injuries - for which he still endures regular hospital treatment and surgery - are so severe that he is registered disabled.
But that has never stopped him from following his dream of joining the ranks of the fire service.
When he was 14 he signed up to Grampian Fire and Rescue Service’s cadet programme, where, for two years, he took part in a range of training exercises, including hose, pump and ladder drills.
As he is not medically fit to become a fully fledge firefighter, however, he now has his heart set of becoming a fire safety officer with the service.
Ivan will have to wait until he turns 18 in July before he can apply.
But he said: “I have made a commitment to myself that this is what I want to do.
“I wanted to be a firefighter but there are too many things medically wrong with me.
“But if I can visit schools and give talks to children, hopefully I can make it visible that fire can be damaging and that it can claim lives. It is very important to make people see that accidents can happen to anyone at any time.”
Ivan was only a toddler when he picked up a lighter that was left lying on the settee of his family home.
He went out in to a communal hallway, climbed down a couple of flights of stairs, and started spraying the liquid gas. He flicked the switch and the gas, which had doused his jumper, ignited, setting him on fire.
Still ablaze, the youngster then tried to climb the stairs to get help, before he was rushed to the Royal Aberdeen Children‘s Hospital and then a special burns unit in Manchester, where he clung to life for four months.
Ivan said: “I went up in a human fireball. I can’t remember what happened to me but I have been told stories and I do get flashbacks now and again from when I’m in the landing, just after I got burnt, of the firefighters rushing in and my dad running about with the paramedics.
“It’s only brief. But I only had a 10% chance of living so I feel I’m the luckiest person alive and I have committed myself to living life to the full. I don’t let anything hold me back.”
He has lost count of the number of operations and weeks in hospital he has needed to treat his injuries, which covered 64% of his body.
And he will continue to get skin grafts, which tighten as he grows, until he stops growing at 21.
He estimates he missed five years of school as a result of hospital visits and a fear of going to class because of the taunts from other children.
Ivan said he was even chased around the school with a lighter by an older boy when he was just 12.
“I was bullied at school and I started refusing to go,” he said.
“I still don’t like it when people stop and stare at me but if they come up and ask me questions about it I don’t mind.”
And he thanked the Scottish Burned Children’s Club for his new found confidence.
The club was set up 10 years ago to help burns victims aged eight to 18 come to terms with their trauma by organising outings to bring them together.
Ivan has been a member since he was seven years old but plans to help other children and become a volunteer for the charity when he turns 18.
He is already in the process of helping to organise a It’s A Knockout-style fun day to raise money for the club this summer.
The inspirational teenager is also in the process of writing a children’s book detailing his ordeal in a bid to encourage parents to keep lighters and other flammable objects out of the