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Grenfell Tower: Car blaze victim Melanie's words of hope for badly-burnt survivors

By Linda Stewart

A Fermanagh woman who was left badly burned by a car fire that claimed her sister's life says there is light at the end of the tunnel for those injured at Grenfell Tower.

Melanie Grimsley was just two when she suffered serious injuries after the vehicle she was in burst into flames as her mother went to buy milk at a shop in Enniskillen in 1988.

Passers-by tried to pull Melanie and her three-year-old sister Amanda from the car. Amanda did not survive, and Melanie was left with third-degree burns.

Melanie said that as she watched events unfold in London, she knew the residents would be setting out on a very long journey, but there was hope for them.

"This is going to be a long journey for a lot of people, but it's one that you can, in the end, triumph over," she said.

"We need to see these people as survivors and support them as best we can and help them move forward from this tragedy."

Melanie has no memories of the blaze that changed her life, but has vivid recollections of her long recovery.

"I knew from a very early age the type of recovery process that I was on," she explained.

"Any accident is going to have a huge impact because of the injuries that are sustained.

"I remember when I was about three or four telling people that the doctors were going to make me new fingers. My fingers had been fused together as a result of the fire.

"The thing about burns is that as well as affecting you physically, they can change dramatically the way you look and you have to get used to the new image of yourself.

"The different dynamic of a burn injury is the loss of what you had known as your identity at the time. But one thing I would always say to anybody is that it does get better in time.

"It's a very long road but the scars can improve in texture and appearance and the technology, I am sure, is much better now than when I was burned. There is a tremendous amount of help out there."

Melanie received a lot of help from charities like the Katie Piper Foundation, which assisted her with techniques for scar rehabilitation. She said she could empathise with people who survived the fire, but she also knew what it was like to lose a family member in similar circumstances.

"In the aftermath of this tragedy in London, this is a real time of compassion, a time to help people who are going to be dealing with it for the weeks and months ahead," she added.

"I hope there can be plenty of compassion, that they can make it through and there is support for them to regain their quality of life."

And she hopes the emergency services who battled to rescue people get the support they need as well.

"Firefighters have always been my heroes too," she said.

"Whenever you hear of tragedies of this scale, you get to see the best of people as well and the bravery of the firefighters, the emergency services and the members of the public who try to help.

"The bravery they show to go into this situation and rescue people - it's a tremendous job that they do and I trust they get the support they need for the things that they've seen."

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