Articles Posted in Survivor Story

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On this day before Thanksgiving, as everyone wraps up their work and other responsibilities and focuses on enjoying the long weekend with loved ones, it’s the right time for victims of severe burns to step back and consider the good in their lives. And there surely are several positive things, and positive possibilities, in each person’s life, no matter how difficult the circumstances of one’s burn injury might be.

This point is driven home by someone like J.R. Martinez, the U.S. military veteran who has overcome second degree burns and third degree burns across 30 percent of his body to be a motivational speaker (partly through the burn-survivor support group Phoenix Society), a TV actor, and now a winner on the TV show “Dancing With The Stars.”

When J.R. was first injured in Iraq in 2003, he was not only in significant physical pain but was also very distraught over how he looked because of the burns across his face and head. But he kept saying to himself that things will get better as time goes on, and this positive attitude (plus 22 surgeries) have helped him to feel so confident that he is fearless in front of TV cameras and large in-person audiences alike.

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Over the past month, there have been so many stories about people who died in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. But here is a story that appeared in the New York Daily News recently that is an excellent example of a survivor who is getting on with his life, and all burn victims can learn from him as they fight to get through their physical and psychological injuries.

Tax lawyer Harry Waizer was ready to get to work when he took the elevator up to his World Trade Center office just before 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001. Harry was 50 years old at the time, and the father of three children. If he had been just two minutes later to work that day, he would have been able to go home that night and tell his family how he escaped. Instead, he became a victim of severe burns that affect him 10 years later, and which will affect him his whole life.

Harry managed to get out of the building a few minutes after the first plane struck his building, but he was severely injured by fire across his entire body. When the plane hit the top of the building, the elevator he was riding in suddenly went into a freefall and burst into flames–not once, but twice.

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A recent article in the Myrtle Beach Sun newspaper discussed a topic that is very helpful to families who have a burn survivor among them.

In Raleigh, NC, yoga instructor Blake Tedder knows how difficult it is for children with burn injuries to face the world. In 2001, Tedder was 17 when he lost 35 percent of his skin in a plane crash.

Tedder was not prepared for the stares and comments after he regained health. Because of his burns, not only did his face stay bright red for a long time, but he also had to wear pantyhose-like garment on his arms. “I felt that I looked like a mummy,” said Tedder, now 26 years old. The idea of possibly not being able to play guitar or catch the eye of a girl was devastating, he added.

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In October 2006, Camryn Higgins suffered second- and third-degree burns to 65 percent of his body in an accidental backyard explosion at his Bastrop, Texas home. It was a Sunday morning, and he and his family was cleaning up after a seventh birthday party for Camryn the day before. His father was getting ready to light the grill for some outdoor cooking. Camryn, carrying a few chairs, also grabbed a lighter to take to his dad. But he tripped on a sidewalk and fell, and somehow the lighter emitted a spark. This ignited fumes from a nearby gas can.

“The backyard was full of smoke and I started hollering, ‘Where’s my baby, where’s my baby?'” recalled Carl Higgins. “Finally he ran in front of me, and I noticed that he was on fire.”

Emergency crews blocked traffic on a nearby highway and a medical helicopter landed to get the child to the Burn Center at Shriners Hospital for Children, in Galveston. Camryn was put on life support and doctors worried he would not survive. But several days later, the boy awoke to his astonished and deeply worried parents. Then the recovery had to begin–which included very painful baths to keep him from getting life-threatening infections.

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A story on the pro-golf website caught my eye this week, and it has almost nothing to do with the golf that is being played by the top male professionals.

This past week in Irving, TX, a burn victim who has had 52 surgeries, and who has just five working fingers out of ten, and who was blind for eight months, and who had to undergo intensive therapy sessions just to walk, talk, and eat again, took on a central role in the HP Byron Nelson Golf Championship, a big event in pro golf. That man, Jason Schechterle, carried the golf bag for his high-school friend Ted Purdy, who is a pro golfer.

Ten years ago, such a role would never have been dreamed of by Jason, Ted, or any of his doctors. Back then, Schechterle was a rookie police officer in Phoenix. One night, his squad car was struck from behind by a taxi driver traveling more than 100 miles per hour. Schechterle’s car burst into flames and for eight agonizing minutes, he was trapped inside.

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In a blog post on April 26, we wrote about young kids from other countries who were getting life-altering surgery here in the United States to save them from a life of pain and disfigurement from severe burns.

Well, here is another such example, which is good news for a young victim of third-degree burns who lives in Congo. In Boston this week, a badly burned Congolese boy is recovering from reconstructive surgery at Shriners Hospital, and his expected quality of life is much better than it was before the surgery.

Unfortunately, he was playing hide-and-seek on the grounds of a power substation back home in Congo, and 9-year-old Yusuf Badibanga was nearly killed because of it. He came in contact with some of the equipment and suffered an enormous electric shock, and was badly burned to the point of severe disfigurement.

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In 1996 there was a devastating fire where a church deacon lost his life when his

apartment was set on fire by suspected drug dealers. Jackie, his wife and her3 children survived, but were seriously injured. Jackie suffered severe smoke inhalation and burns to her arms. Her oldest daughter also suffered from smoke inhalation along with 2nd & 3rd degree burns to her arms and legs. The youngest daughter and son who was 3 years old miraculously managed to escape with minor injuries.

After an extended period in the Burn Unit, Jackie and her daughter went home. However, the oldest daughter would require additional surgery at some point.

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The Associated Press reported today that a Texas construction worker, whose face was completely disfigured by third-degree burns suffered when he fell into an electrical power line, successfully underwent the nation’s first full face transplant in a Boston hospital last week.

Dallas Wiens, 25, received a new nose, lips, skin, muscle and nerves from a recently-deceased person. The operation was paid for by the United States armed forces, which is trying to learn more about how to help soldiers who suffer disfiguring facial wounds.

In March 2010, doctors in Spain performed the first full face transplant in the world on a farmer who was accidentally shot in the face, and could not breathe or eat on his own.

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In April of 1984, Jerry White, lost his right leg in a landmine accident, he outlines in his book “I Will Not Be Broken” five steps to cope with disasters and achieve strength and hope.

  1. You have to face the facts: a person must accept the facts and the reality that this thing has happened and you can’t change it no matter what, you can’t set the clock back to the time before that incident. Sometimes suffering results from attachment to ideas and things more than the loss itself.
  2. Choosing to live: look at the future and say yes to it, look at your life and choose it to go in a positive way, don’t surrender to what happened, let go of the resentment and look always forward and not backward.
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From the book “I will not be broken” by Jerry White.

Survivor X was disabled during the civil war that took place in 1978 in Eritrea. In the beginning he was saying “Now my legs are injured, what is going to happen to me?” But this didn’t keep him down. He quickly got rid of these thoughts because he realized what happened to him, has happened already and he can’t change the past. He stopped thinking about what happened to him and instead started thinking about what he can do. He started thinking about going back to work and taking control of his life, because if he doesn’t do that, nobody is going to do it for him. All the bad thoughts that were in his mind were gradually diminishing until they were completely gone.

He now takes care of his elderly mother, and helps cultivate the land for elderly and challenged people in his area. In return for working their land, he shares the produce with them and also get to keep a share for himself. Survivor X doesn’t see himself as a challenged person because he was able to work and give back.