"Once she was home, the severity of Miss Skalli's injuries begun to set in."
"She said: 'I had to accept I'd always look like a freak and that my entire life had been destroyed.' "
"She was devastated when her mother died after an accidental combination of wine and anti-depressants, which she had been prescribed because of difficulty coping with the crisis."
SSRI Stories Note: The Physicians Desk Reference states that antidepressants can cause a craving for alcohol and can cause alcohol abuse. Also, the liver cannot metabolize the antidepressant and the alcohol simultaneously, thus leading to higher levels of both alcohol and the antidepressant in the human body.
Barmaid tells the story of her incredible recovery from critical burns after being given just 1% chance of survival
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 1:56 PM on 8th May 2010
A barmaid who was so badly burnt in a flat fire that doctors gave her almost no chance of survival has told the incredible story of her recovery.
Layla Skalli was only 19-years-old when the blaze nearly killed her and left her body devastated with 80% burns. She had been so hot the firefighter who rescued her was burnt through his protective clothing.
When she reached hospital doctors told her devastated family she had less than a one per cent chance of surviving.
Yesterday, now 20, she spoke of her extraordinary recovery and her anger at what had happened, as her millionaire former landlord Michael Billings was jailed for failing to fit adequate safety equipment at the flat.
Miss Skalli told The Sun newspaper: 'My life and my family were destroyed.
'My dreams of becoming a soldier and one day a wife and mother are in tatters.'
She told how she was unconscious for nine days after the fire last April as medics fought to save her using a revolutionary technique from America.
They carried out a nine-hour operation to remove her deeply-burned skin so it could not become infected, before using her cells to grow new skin which was used along with donor skin for grafts which now cover 85% of her body.
When she came round from the medically induced coma, her first words were to ask her sister Nadia for a can of Dr Pepper.
She said: 'The doctors were shocked, I wasn't supposed to come round for four weeks. Asking for my favourite drink showed I'd escaped without brain damage. That was a fear because I hadn't been breathing for so long.'
The fire broke out during the night at a flat above a mobile phone shop in Norwich she shared with three others. Miss Skalli had gone to bed after a shift at the pub where she worked part-time as she studied at Norwich City College.
Two of her flatmates climbed down a drainpipe to escape and the other had been about to jump from a third-floor window at 1.15am when fire crews arrived.
Miss Skalli had passed out from smoke inhalation and was unconscious in her room.
Firefighters used a ladder as a battering ram to smash through her window and rescued her shortly before an explosion in her room.
They found her curled up on the floor with her hands covering her face, the only part of her body which was not severely burned.
Miss Skalli said she had no recollection of the fire, only of waking up in Norwich University Hospital.
She was resuscitated in the street after her rescue and began screaming in agony and coughing up blood before being taken away in the ambulance. She had organ failure, carbon monoxide poisoning and her burns were becoming infected.
Doctors transferred her to a specialist burns unit at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, Essex, where her operations were conducted.
When she came round nine days later she was kept on strong painkillers and continued to drift in and out of consciousness, suffering severe pain each time she was turned by hospital staff to prevent blood clots.
She endured skin grafts twice a week and could not even scream when she was in pain because her throat was also burned.
Her hands were so badly burned she was told at one stage they might have to amputated. They were saved but the tendons were destroyed so her fingers are stuck in a claw-like grip.
It was only after several weeks she was able to see how she looked after asking for a mirror. Hospital staff, fearing for her reaction, said she could have one when her mother Jackie visited the next day.
She said: 'I was relieved my face was not too bad. The rest of my body had melted but at least I still had my face. Even my hair had melted on to the floor and I was bald. That was probably the hardest part.'
She remained in bed for three months before starting to use a wheelchair and gradually learning to walk again.
Her mother, who had kept a vigil at her bedside along with her father Hakim, became her closest support when she was discharged a month later. Mrs Skalli slept in the same room as her daughter to comfort her.
Once she was home, the severity of Miss Skalli's injuries begun to set in.
She said: 'I had to accept I'd always look like a freak and that my entire life had been destroyed.'
She was devastated when her mother died after an accidental combination of wine and anti-depressants, which she had been prescribed because of difficulty coping with the crisis.
Miss Skalli said: ' My dreams of travelling are gone because I cannot visit hot countries due to the layers I have to wear and being a soldier is a distant dream.'
Billings, 55, of Beccles, Suffolk, was jailed for 30 months at Norwich Crown Court yesterday after admitting breaching health and safety laws and ordered to pay £20,000 in costs. Judge Paul Downes offered to review the sentence if Billings paid Miss Skalli £20,000 as a show of remorse.
An inspector from the Health and Safety Executive described the case as one of the most distressing he had seen in more than 30 years.
He said: 'Virtually all the skin below her neck was destroyed by the intense 600 degree heat as the property above a mobile phone shop became a raging inferno.
'Tenants in three adjoining properties were lucky to escape.'
He said Billings had failed to provide even basic protection for his tenants. There was no working fire alarm system and he had not installed enough fire doors or provided adequate means of escape.
Gas appliances in the flats above the shop had not been serviced or properly inspected. Miss Skalli had been unable to escape because her sash window could only be opened four inches.
The cause of the fire, which was treated as a potential manslaughter case, has never been conclusively found despite an investigation by Norfolk Police, HSE, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service and Norwich City Council.
After the court ruling Miss Skalli's brother Andrew said:
'The actions of Michael Billings have ruined my sister's life.
'We want to remind every landlord that they have a legal and moral obligation to the safety of their tenants, something Billings gave no thought to hence why he has been sentenced.
'But no amount of time in prison could make up for the pain he has caused my sister and my family.'