It all happened on November 2nd, 2012.
13-year-old Jaired Heinrichs was cleaning up his parents' yard in Rosengart, getting it ready for a family gathering, when he decided to pour gasoline on a pile of burning leaves to speed things up.
"I poured the gas the first time. Everything went well. But I'm like, 'you know what? Here's some more leaves on the fire' to get the rest of the leaves cleaned up. The fire died out and then (I said) 'well, I'll speed it up one more time. One more time. No big deal right? And so, I poured the gas on and all of a sudden, I felt something hot shoot up my right arm, like incredibly hot. I look over and my whole right arm is engulfed in flames. And (I said), 'Oh boy, what do I do? What do I do?".
Luckily, Heinrichs remembered the advice to 'stop, drop and roll' that he learned during a fire safety presentation at school the week before. Within seconds, he was on the ground trying to put out the flames.
His neighbour saw the whole thing unfold.
"They heard it, they heard me scream at the top of my lungs. They came running and they saw it happen," said Heinrichs. "My brothers finally got my mom. My mom and my neighbor lady dropped my shirt out of my pants and then my mom started cooling me off, and then I told her, 'Call 9-1-1, call 9-1-1. Get an ambulance here!'. She said, 'there's not enough time. I'm taking you to Boundary (Trails Health Centre) myself."
After making it to the hospital in about 15 minutes, his mom walked him into the emergency room carrying him on her shoulder. The nurses quickly got him into a room began cooling him down and dealing with his burns. Then, they called STARS to transport him to Winnipeg.
"There were no doctors available on standby to go with in an ambulance to do a medical transport from Boundary to Winnipeg," explained Heinrichs. "STARS was already on their way to airlift another patient and the doctors realized I was more, not to say it was more important, but my case was more critical. I needed medical attention right now."
Heinrichs, now 23-years-old, doesn't remember much else from that day.
"Well, from that day I remember the burn, the fire itself, and I remember the heat. You know, we all complain that a plus 30 days hot. Imagine that about times a million and have that an inch from your face. It's incredibly scary. I remember everything up until Boundary Trails. They sedated me and put me under, so I don't remember. There's about two-and-half, three weeks where I have very little memory of after the incident itself."
Heinrichs spent 4 weeks in hospital with third- and fourth-degree burns covering 45 per cent of his body. His mom seated next to his hospital bed the entire time.
"I don't know where I'd be without her. She did everything in her power and knowledge to help me get through that moment of life. Probably scared the ever livin' out of her."
Sadly, his younger brothers also saw the whole incident unfold, and suffered from nightmares as a result.
Among all of the tragedy, Heinrichs said it was an incredible weight lifted off his back and that of his family's when they found out the 15-minute, $15,000 flight from Boundary Trails to Winnipeg wouldn't cost them a dime.
"We were all concerned," he said. "That not a cheap flight. And when I dug a little more, dug into STARS, and I realized it was all by donation and they never charge the patient or the family [...] and that, well it is a load off, especially when you're already dealing with this life-threatening injury."
"I am forever grateful for stars," added Heinrichs. "There are many more STARS VIPs in southern Manitoba and all across Manitoba. Even if you donate $5. They provide a lifesaving service."
It's day one of the Critical Care on the Air STARS Radiothon presented by LMS Equipment. All funds raised stay in Manitoba to support STARS mission to deliver critical care, anywhere. Your donation will help propel their innovation, allowing STARS to deliver leading-edge care that saves lives.
Call 1-877-577-8277 or text STARS to 45678 to make a $25 donation. Click here to donate online.
Written with files from Ronny Guenther.