Dubai: A Dubai resident left with second-degree burns after the lithium battery in his vape machine blew up is calling on others to be aware of the devices.
Graham Tooby, 48, a photographer and videographer originally from the UK, was in his back garden in The Villa, Dubailand, on New Year’s Eve at a gathering with friends and family when blue flames suddenly engulfed him.
“My brother in law threw water over me, but because lithium batteries don’t stop until they run out of energy it kept on burning,” Tooby told Gulf News.
There was instant pain and panic and I didn’t really know what to do because it had all happened so suddenly, it wasn’t as though the device had heated up beforehand, it literally went from zero to blue flames in seconds.
“There was instant pain and panic and I didn’t really know what to do because it had all happened so suddenly, it wasn’t as though the device had heated up beforehand, it literally went from zero to blue flames in seconds.
"Without warning fireworks were coming from my pocket and we were all just trying to stop it,” he added.
“Eventually I managed to get my trousers off to reveal a hand-sized burn at the top of my left thigh in a delicate area. Luckily, it missed my vitals. If it had been an inch to the right, I would have been known as Shirley, not Graham."
“All the while my trousers were still burning on the floor. The whole incident lasted just 30 seconds but the aftermath is quite different,” he said.
Tooby was taken to Rashid Hospital where he underwent two surgeries to first scrape out dead tissue, which had caused an infection in his blood, and then a second surgery after six weeks to graft skin from the back of his leg onto his front.
Suffering from second-degree burns, he has been off work for the last two months and will be left with a permanent scar, prompting him to spread public awareness about the dangers of vape machines.
“These things don’t just damage your lungs, their batteries, as well, can be very dangerous,” he said.
“I have not smoked or vaped since, the message has been well and truly received. I was fortunate though, I don’t know what would have happened if I had been driving on the motorway.
“Unlike phone batteries which have to go through massive checks, vaping machines have probably moved too fast, I don’t know what the regulation is but they are openly available and are starting to become more accessible over here [in the UAE].
“Everyone has heard of someone somewhere who has had something happen to them, but it’s only from researching lithium batteries online since my accident that I have found out how dangerous they can be.
“I definitely wouldn’t carry it in my pocket again that’s for sure and I would check the batteries for any form of damage,” he advised.
“The vape I used was the one where you change and charge the battery yourself. That’s possibly not the most ideal. These batteries are not designed to be taken in and out by the public, they are designed to be put in and left alone. My battery flew out the bottom of my vape at high speed.”
Asked if he would be looking for compensation, he replied: “I don’t really know, we are looking into it, but they don’t really have no win no fee in this part of the world.
"I’m just glad the kids were in bed and no one else was around who could have been hurt if I hadn’t had it in my pocket.”