‘I wanted to prove I could be strong again’: Man who suffered third degree burns in a gas explosion aged 15 reveals …

A man has regained his confidence and found love through bodybuilding after he escaped a gas explosion that left him with third degree burns at the age of 15.

Gary Hall, 33, an investment advisor from New Brunswick in Canada, was just a teenager in June 2000 when a massive gas explosion ripped through the basement he was in with a friend. 

The two boys were trapped inside the burning room for several minutes before a passerby heard their screams and freed them, but Gary had already sustained 75 per cent burns to his body.

Left unable to open his left hand due to the melted skin that sealed it shut, he was in the hospital for three-months undergoing a total of 180 hours in surgeries that included skin graft surgeries, an escharotomy, gall bladder removal, scar contracture releases, z-plasty and laser treatments.

Gary, who weighed just 60 lbs (4st 4lbs) when he left the hospital, became insecure about his scarred appearance and worried that girls would never fancy him, so decided to work out to regain his confidence.

He said he wanted to ‘give something else for people to stare at’ besides his scars, so concentrated on building muscle.  

He is now a champion professional bodybuilder in his spare time and has found love with girlfriend, Jessica.

Gary Hall, now 33, an investment advisor from New Brunswick in Canada, was just a teenager in June 2000 when a massive gas explosion ripped through the basement he was in with a friend (pictured age 15 after being injured)

Gary Hall, now 33, an investment advisor from New Brunswick in Canada, was just a teenager in June 2000 when a massive gas explosion ripped through the basement he was in with a friend (pictured age 15 after being injured)

Left with scars, Gary is now a champion professional bodybuilder in his spare time and has regained his confidence after  turning to the gym to 'give people something else to stare at'

Left with scars, Gary is now a champion professional bodybuilder in his spare time and has regained his confidence after  turning to the gym to ‘give people something else to stare at’

Speaking about the explosion that would change his life, Gary recalled: ‘My friend and I were studying for our grade nine exams in early June 2000. At some point we entered the basement where gasoline was stored, and something caused it to explode.

‘We were blown up and trapped inside for several minutes until a car passing by heard and opened the door.

‘I had severely burned lungs, smoke inhalation, along with second and third degree burns to roughly seventy-five to eighty percent of my body.’

Recalling the shocking injuries he sustained, he continued: ‘As I was going in and out of consciousness on the lawn waiting for emergency services to show up, the last thing I remember was not being able to open my left hand as the skin had melted and slid down over my hand.’ 

Left unable to open his left hand due to the melted skin that sealed it shut, he was in the hospital for three-months undergoing a total of 180 hours in surgeries that included skin graft surgeries, an escharotomy, gall bladder removal, scar contracture releases, z-plasty and laser treatments (Gary seen at 15)

Left unable to open his left hand due to the melted skin that sealed it shut, he was in the hospital for three-months undergoing a total of 180 hours in surgeries that included skin graft surgeries, an escharotomy, gall bladder removal, scar contracture releases, z-plasty and laser treatments (Gary seen at 15)

He has found love with girlfriend Jessica, who he originally met through work, and credits her for helping him make the most of his newfound side career as a champion bodybuilder

He has found love with girlfriend Jessica, who he originally met through work, and credits her for helping him make the most of his newfound side career as a champion bodybuilder

‘I remember seeing flanks of blackened flesh hanging off of my leg in the ambulance and being in an extraordinary amount of pain.

‘They would pull me out of the induced coma slightly to do my bandages, so I wouldn’t bleed out and the wounds were extremely gruesome.’ 

Gary added: ‘In the end I got out after about ninety days, I needed many surgeries to survive the acute phase along with many reconstructive surgeries as well.

‘You have to wear incredibly tight and uncomfortable pressure suits for two years once your skin is healed as well.’

Gary weighed just 60 lbs (four stone and four lbs) when he left the hospital, became insecure about his scarred appearance and worried that girls would never fancy him

Gary weighed just 60 lbs (four stone and four lbs) when he left the hospital, became insecure about his scarred appearance and worried that girls would never fancy him

Over time Gary became a personal trainer, entered bodybuilding contests and built his body up with a weight of 10st 10Ibs

Over time Gary became a personal trainer, entered bodybuilding contests and built his body up with a weight of 10st 10Ibs

‘School was rough at first as I had no strength, no endurance, and was obviously stared at quite a lot. Learning to walk again, or to making sure I didn’t stop breathing again once I was taken off the ventilator was odd.’

And the endless surgeries weren’t his only challenge as he discovered on leaving the hospital. 

‘I came out of the hospital at about 4st 4lbs as a 15-year-old. My parents asked what I wanted when I got out and I asked for a home gym,’ he said.

‘I wanted to prove I could be strong again and give something else for people to stare at – and hopefully love.’

Gary pictured with his girlfriend, Jessica, (on the left) during one of his shows and with a pal holding the medal that he won

Gary pictured with his girlfriend, Jessica, (on the left) during one of his shows and with a pal holding the medal that he won

Gary pictured revealing his muscly physique. He credits bodybuilding with helping him regain his confidence and finally find love

Gary pictured revealing his muscly physique. He credits bodybuilding with helping him regain his confidence and finally find love

Over time Gary became a personal trainer, entered bodybuilding contests and built his body up with a weight of 10st 10Ibs.

He now has a girlfriend who he met in May 2018 and has been supporting his newfound career.

‘Jessica and I met at work and there was an instant connection but our lives brought us on two different paths for the next two years,’ Gary said.

‘Back in May we reconnected after living 1.5km apart and everything fell into place. She lives life at my pace and she lifts my happiness to new heights.

‘When I think of doing anything in the future, she is right by my side. I think she would say she loves that I constantly challenge her, and she enjoys my dedication and drive to everything I do.

Gary is seen showing off his new physique after turning to bodybuilding to regain his confidence and give people 'something else to stare at'

Gary is seen showing off his new physique after turning to bodybuilding to regain his confidence and give people ‘something else to stare at’

'When I think of doing anything in the future, she is right by my side. I think she would say she loves that I constantly challenge her, and she enjoys my dedication and drive to everything I do', he said of Jessica

‘When I think of doing anything in the future, she is right by my side. I think she would say she loves that I constantly challenge her, and she enjoys my dedication and drive to everything I do’, he said of Jessica

‘I’m very proud to walk into a room with her and she makes my life that much sweeter. Working out certainly gave me more confidence back.

‘I became a personal trainer and even taught boot camps and specialty fitness classes to educate others.

‘I became quite good at public speaking. I was fortunate enough to be asked to mentor other burn survivors which was very fulfilling.’

He added: ‘Overall, I feel phenomenal; I’m healthy, truly happy, successful, I have great friends, a girlfriend, and the future is bright.

‘Bodybuilding has quickened the return of my confidence, posture, strength, balance, it’s flattened scars from sub cutaneous pressure (much like the external suits I had to wear).

‘I’ve entered two shows; one in 2006 and one in 2018. I won five first place trophies in 2006 and one first place trophy just a few weeks ago.

‘I’ve learned patience mostly in those few initial years. I took care of myself as a 15-year-old already. I worked out and practised martial arts.

‘I’ve spent more time reflecting on where I’ve been, where I want to go, who I want to help, how I want to get there and how to do all of his better and more efficiently.’ 

Gary pictured revealing his muscly physique. He took up bodybuilding to find love after he escaped a gas explosion which left him with 75 per cent burns

Gary pictured revealing his muscly physique. He took up bodybuilding to find love after he escaped a gas explosion which left him with 75 per cent burns

Gary pictured revealing his muscly physique which helped him regain his confidence and find love 

Gary pictured revealing his muscly physique which helped him regain his confidence and find love 

 

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