Recently in Surviving a Burn Injury Category

April 5, 2012

Severe Burn Victim's Survivor Story Inspires Others

Zane Wetzel spent 47 days in a coma, and awoke to the realization that he was involved in a life-changing accident. But with the love of his wife and unwavering faith and optimism, he and his wife have gotten to a place where they can actually help other burn victims too.

It has been a little more than two years since the 27-year-old apprentice lineman for Maine Public Service Co. in Presque Isle, Maine suffered a flash burn to 50 percent of his body while working at an electrical substation. His chest, back, arm and neck suffered third degree burns in the accident.

Wetzel was standing on a scissor lift with several other co-workers when a charge of electricity arced and touched the corner of the lift. The electricity traveled to the ground and bounced back, burning him. Safety equipment prevented Wetzel from being fatally electrocuted. And no one else around him was injured.

Wetzel was in a drug-induced coma for 47 days in the intensive care unit at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. He has endured a dozen surgeries, including several operations to place skin graft from his legs onto his burned areas. After seven weeks, he was transferred from Brigham and Women's to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He spent two weeks in that hospital and remained in Boston for outpatient therapy before coming home at the end of January 2011. For several months, he spent up to 2½ hours a day, five days a week, at County Physical Therapy in Presque Isle working with therapists on exercises to increase his range of motion and mobility and improve his quality of life.

After Zane was released from the hospital, he and his wife Courtney began receiving invitations to speak at churches, Christian schools and other venues about the accident and its aftermath. They now have traveled all over New England and also spoke in Zane's home state of Ohio.

"We always tag-team during these engagements because he doesn't remember the first month after the accident and we had two different challenges," said Courtney. "Mine was that I didn't know if my husband would live. His was waking up and realizing the condition he was in."

Wetzel still has virtually no memory of the accident. At the emergency room, "I remember being scared and confused, and then I heard my mother-in-law's voice and I calmed down," he said. "I remember whispering, 'Tell Courtney I love her.'"

When Courtney arrived at the Boston hospital a few hours after the accident, she repeatedly asked doctors and nurses if Zane would live. They just stared in silence. "I really just had to put it in God's hands," she said. "I turned it over to Him."

Zane's family traveled to the hospital from Ohio to join Courtney and her loved ones. As they watched, he struggled. Feverish and thirsty, he thought he was being held captive in Mexico, the constant sedation leading him to believe that his captors were drugging him. His loved ones watched him kick and flail in his hospital bed, with Courtney humming "Amazing Grace" to him every night before she left.

The doctors assured her that one day Zane would just emerge from his sedation and start talking to her. That day was six weeks after the accident. Although he was still on the feeding tube, he began eating his first real meal of peaches and ice cream six days later. To the amazement of his family and caregivers, he was well enough to make a trip home for Christmas 2010.

Wetzel's last operation was surgery on his neck in June 2011 and he will have additional neck surgery soon. He also may be facing a procedure on his thumb. "But hopefully, that will be the last one," he said.

His physical therapy has decreased to three days a week and he is now lifting heavy weights. He has gained mobility and strength. He can lift weights over his head now, something he could not do a few months ago.

The biggest change, however, has been the public speaking. The Wetzels are strong in their faith. The couple said they've had unbelievable reactions when they tell their story in public. "I always people that your strength doesn't come from you, God gives you the strength to get through," said Courtney. "Things happen for a reason, and you have to be strong."

During each session, Zane unbuttons his shirt and shows the audience his chest, which was the most severely burned in the accident. "I am not ashamed of my scars," he said. "And we always get a positive reaction when we speak -- lots of tears and people telling us how inspired they were by our story."

Zane adds that "I do want to go back to work. I will talk to the doctors to determine what sort of job duties I can perform."

Since he can't expose his skin to sunlight for very long and has poor circulation in his hands, which makes him more susceptible to frostbite, he cannot go back to his position as a power lineman. Still, he wants to return to work in some fashion and has kept in contact with his colleagues, who he called "very supportive."

The couple said they have amazing support from family, friends, and the community. They credited medical staff at both hospitals in Massachusetts as well Zane's team at County Physical Therapy for his recovery. They now are back to making plans both personally and professionally and looking forward to their next steps after the long journey home.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

March 27, 2012

Workplace Accident Causes Severe Burns for Steel Plant Employee


Earlier this year, a man in Portage, Indiana, was placed into an induced coma after an industrial accident at the steel mill where he worked left him with third degree burns over 55 percent of his body.

The accident happened one evening at the ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor plant, when a high-pressure steam hose ruptured from where it was connected to an oxygen furnace. Gabe Rocha, a salaried foreman who transferred from the firm's Inland Steel plant to the Burns Harbor facility about six months ago, was checking pressure lines that are part of the cooling system when the hose ruptured.

At the time of the accident, workers were investigating an alert that a steam pressure line had stopped working properly. While Rocha was looking into the situation, the hose ruptured with such force that it threw him about 200 feet, dousing him with steam.

Rocha, who is in his 50s, was airlifted to the burn center at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, where he was placed in the coma. Rocha is expected to be in the medically induced coma for about a month, he added. "His hands, neck, back and legs suffered severe burns," said a union spokesman. Fortunately, he was initially listed in stable condition.

The plant workers' union and the steelmaking firm have launched a joint union-management investigation into the accident to determine the exact cause, and determine if the incident could have been prevented. "We want to make sure this doesn't happen again," said the union spokesperson.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

December 14, 2011

A Burn Survivor's Story Shows That Even the Most Severe Burns Can Be Overcome


In mid-November, at story in the Gaston Gazette from North Carolina covered the long, very painful, but ultimately successful recovery of Lucille Camp. Lucille is a 70-year-old woman who found the inner strength to survive and even modestly recover from third degree burns she suffered across half her body nearly three years ago.

Today, Lucille can stand from her wheelchair to take crutches and, with help from her daughter Sandy Johnson and nurse Judy Tate, slowly walk across a room. Johnson said her mother's fierce determination has kept her alive and improving since being caught in a house fire in January 2009. When that happened, Lucille was taken to the Wake Forest Burn Center in Winston-Salem, where doctors told the family that she wouldn't make it through the first 24 hours.

Lucille not only survived, but she has continued to amaze doctors with her small improvements over time. But her recovery has not been steady, and it is very trying not just physically but psychologically. The assistance of workers from Palliative Care Cleveland County, a local group, has been essential to Lucille's progress.

Palliative care services manage the pain, suffering, and stress of serious injury or illness, and the palliative care team works with a patient's own doctor to move the patient through the health-care system as the patient needs different treatments from different doctors and facilities

One problem Lucille's primary physician had was controlling her pain without making Lucille too sleepy or disoriented. The doctor asked the palliative care team to help with symptom management. Another set of eyes can help."

Lucille's daughters stay with their mother at night. During the day, nurses from Health and Home Services in Gastonia, NC take turns staying with Lucille. Their brother, Donnie Camp, keeps the house running by making repairs as needed, and Lucille's husband of 45 years, Claude, provides constant support and encouragement.

When Lucille has a physical problem, the palliative care team is a phone call away and makes a house call if necessary. And though Lucille sometimes doesn't like the doctor's orders, she complies after the doctor explains why it's necessary. For instance, the doctor said at one point that because Lucille had contracted pneumonia, she had to stop eating by mouth until she got stronger, or else risk choking on her food. Lucille had to be fed with an intravenous tube for several weeks, but eventually got back her ability to swallow safely.

"I have an open relationship with Lucille that has helped her to understand that I will not give her things that will make her unsafe," the doctor says.

Lucille knows that her doctors have helped her get stronger, and be able to live longer than many thought she would three years ago. "I have come a long way since I've got my doctor," Lucille said. "I thank God for all my nurses and my doctors and my family."

If you or someone you know does suffer a severe burn injury or a smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a solid legal case.

December 6, 2011

Severely Burned Boy Making Excellent Physical and Psychological Progress

There is an uplifting story on CNN.com today about a burn victim who is not only is healing physically from his burns, but also psychologically. Here's the proof: The boy, Youssif, was given a "certificate of citizenship" recently, which is an award for being exceptionally nice to a fellow classmate in school. Another boy got hurt, and Youssif helped the boy with his gashed arm by applying an ice pack and helping to stop the bleeding.

Youssif is proud of his award--and his family, his doctors, and his entire support system should all be proud as well. Four years ago, Youssif suffered third degree burns to his face--much of it melted, actually--during a battle among local sects in Iraq. But after dozens of surgeries in the United States, doctors have been able to reverse a lot of the horrible burn scars. Not only that, but Youssif is no longer the sad, quiet child he was in the few years after his burn injury.

Through extensive counseling with his family, he is now able to cope with the facial scars he still has from the attack, and he also has an upbeat attitude that's hard to believe. He says his looks no longer bother him, "because none of my other friends make fun of me," he says in English. His mother is so happy to see her boy like he was before he was burned. "His personality has changed so much," she told CNN.com. "The way he interacts with people, and everything else. It began as soon as he started school and realized that the children don't care about his appearance. It allowed him to have a normal life."

When CNN first aired Youssif's story in 2007, viewers around the world responded to the family's plea, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Children's Burn Foundation, a Los Angeles-based foundation that took on his case.

His mental recovery has by far outpaced his physical one. He still needs more surgeries. Treating Youssif has been challenging, his doctors say, because his skin tends not to heal well. His doctors want to slow down the pace of surgeries for now to determine how his burn scar tissue and skin will develop and change as he gets older.

He loves soccer and plays on a local team. "I never used to do that in my country," he says, "because it was kind of dangerous there." He loves the ocean, which he had never seen in Iraq.

And he wants to be a doctor so he can help others when he grows up.

If you or someone you know does suffer a severe burn injury or a smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a solid legal case.

November 23, 2011

J.R. Martinez Shows That Burn Victims Who Are Thankful for What They Have Can Lead Full, Happy Lives

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.

J.R. Martinez is living his life to the fullest, even though he still does not look or feel exactly like he did before he was injured. He has become comfortable with his "new normal," and he looks at his life through that lens. But--and this is the important part--he does not let the fact that he is different than he was before hold him back from anything, or even slow him down one bit.

One thing J.R. makes sure to do each day is to count his blessings, looking at all the good things and good people in his life, so that he keeps his mind in a positive, healthy place. This is something all burn victims can do, as they heal both physically and psychologically from their severe burn injuries.

Always think of things this way: If J.R. Martinez can suffer disfiguring burns across his face and still be a TV star, you can do almost anything you want with your life, and you can lean on your family and friends--and the people at the Phoenix Society--along the way.

If you or someone you know does suffer a severe burn injury or a smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a solid legal case.

November 9, 2011

The Power of Positive Thinking Helps When Healing From a Burn Injury

An August 15 article in the Rapid City Journal in South Dakota told the story of firefighter Austin Whitney, who is in the long and painful process of recovering from severe burns across thirteen percent of his body. He received those second degree burns and third degree burns after the Coal Canyon wildfire trapped the 22-year-old and four fellow firefighters.

What is helping Austin to make the best recovery he can is this: the power of his mind. "His spirits are just out of this world. He is in such a good mindset," said Robert Whitney, Austin's father, from outside the hospital room just two days after Austin was burned. "He told me that this incident isn't going to stop him from being a firefighter."

Austin Whitney followed in the firefighting footsteps of his father, grandfather, and aunts and uncles. This summer was his first season with the South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division, a state firefighting agency. But Austin started fighting fires when he turned 18, joining the Pringle Volunteer Fire Department--the same department as his father and grandfather. He joined the Cascade Volunteer Fire Department the following year, and is now a co-captain. "It overjoyed me to no end," said Austin's father. "It excited me that he would take an interest like this."

But even though Robert said that his son's healing was going well just days after the fire, it was very hard for the family to take the news of their son's injuries when it first happened. "A lot of emotions were going through my head at the time," Robert said. "We didn't know how bad it was or anything that was going on, and it made the whole family nervous."

The night he was burned, Austin was flown to Western States Burn Center at Northern Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, Colorado, where he was treated for second degree burns on his face, right arm, and both calves, plus third degree burns on his left arm. Doctors expected Austin to stay at the burn center for about two weeks, with skin grafts performed just five days after Austin was injured.

Robert Whitney said the support that Austin and the whole family have received is overwhelming, and helps Austin and his family keep that positive outlook that is so critical to healing from a burn injury. "It's just been outstanding, the support we have gotten," Robert said. "I want to put a thanks out to all of the firefighters, family, friends that have called, texted, and sent cards. It really means a lot to us."

If you or someone you know suffers a burn injury or a smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a solid legal case.

October 28, 2011

Burn Camps Help Burn Victims Cope With Their Scars--and Are Located in Every U.S. State

In our last post on Wednesday, October 26, we talked about the many services offered at the new Grossman Burn Center in Phoenix, Arizona. But once a burn victim is released from a burn center like Grossman, there are still many challenges to deal with for the rest of their lives. But burn survivors can gain the confidence to move forward in their lives with the help of burn camps. In fact, every state in the U.S. has a burn camp.

Here is one example: In August 2011 a 10-year-old named Elizabeth Watson attended a burn camp in Utah, and came home feeling energized and able to better handle the complications in her life. When Elizabeth was younger, she hated the burn scars that wrapped around her legs, arms, feet and part of her head, thinking that they were so ugly. But over time, Elizabeth learned that the burn scars suffered from a propane accident when she was just 5 months old do not define who she is or how she looks. They are simply, as she says, "a part of who I am."

Elizabeth attended the annual University Health Care Burn Camp at Camp Tracy in Mill Creek Canyon in Utah, along with 40 other young burn victims. They rode horses, went swimming, made music, and created arts and crafts over four days. All of this helped them build confidence that they can do whatever they want, and that their burn injury and scars won't hold them back..

"Burn survivors go through a lot of different phases in their healing. It's sometimes difficult for them to feel good about the way they look after suffering severe burns and to have positive self-esteem," said camp co-director Brad Wiggins, a clinical nurse coordinator at University Health Care Burn Center. "The camp's purpose is to facilitate interactions with other burn survivors and teach them how to move past their burn injuries."

Asked what her favorite activity was during these burn camps, 6-year-old Chloie Workman just smiled and said, "Everything." Chloie also got to talk with other people for the first time about her burn injuries, caused by an accident when she pulled a rice cooker onto herself. "I learned about other people and how they got their burns too," she said.

For kids under age 12, the paid for by the Professional Firefighters of Utah, the union that supports more than 15 municipal departments in the state. Firefighters also volunteer at the camp by becoming counselors, doing cleanup and cooking for the children. The Greater Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts also donates the use of Camp Tracy.

"In the past, firefighters have kind of lost track to what happens to [burn survivors], and what this burn camp gave us is a chance to follow up and see how well they're doing," said camp co-director Ron Fife, who also is a Salt Lake City fire division chief. "It's a great opportunity that firefighters have and something they really support."

Ten-year-old Elizabeth said she would just like to go to burn camp without having the scars. Yet she says she has accepted what happened and just wants to move forward. "I used to picture my life like it was put into a book," she said. "But then I realized that without my scars, I wouldn't know what my story was about."

If you or someone you know suffers a burn injury or a smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a solid legal case.

October 6, 2011

A Victim of Third Degree Burns Gets Support That Gives Her Hope--And Then She Gives Other Burn Victims Hope Too

An article back in July in the midwestern newspaper The Columbia Missourian told the heartwarming story of one woman coming to the aid of another woman who was the victim of third degree burns. This story also has lessons for anyone who kmnows someone who suffers severe burns.

Larisa Rudelson never knew Albina Lewis until she went to visit her in the burn unit at University Hospital in Columbia, MO. Both women are originally from Russia and now live in Columbia, so Rudelson understands that being away from one's home can be very lonely, especially in such a situation that Lewis found herself in.

On February 23, Lewis' apartment caught fire, and she could not escape in time to avoid being badly injured by severe burns. Her arms, hands, ears and one of her legs were damaged, but fortunately her face did not receive burns as serious as those on her extremities. These burn injuries kept her in University Hospital for more than four months, and recently she was moved to the St. John's Mercy Rehabilitation Hospital in St. Louis.

Surgeries and extended stays at both hospitals have left Lewis and her husband, Craig, with enormous medical bills. But through word-of-mouth, Rudelson heard about Lewis' accident a few months after it happened. Immediately struck by the fact that Lewis was from Russia, and without ever meeting her before, Rudelson wanted to help.

"I imagined that she is lonely over here, and I felt that I could help by showing support," Rudelson said at a recent benefit for Lewis that was held at Studio B Dance Center in Columbia. Rudelson began visiting Lewis at University Hospital during her free time, but their interactions were always one-sided--Lewis had to have an emergency tracheotomy which left her speechless.

Rudelson is also connected within the Russian community in Columbia. She spread the word of Lewis' situation and, soon thereafter, she was not the only Russian who visited Lewis in the burn unit. Russian priests came to visit her, and women from the Russian community gathered to host tea parties in her hospital room.

One of Lewis' nurses was impressed by the outpouring of support from a community that had never met Lewis before the accident. "They didn't just come once or twice. They were always coming by to let Albina know that there were people here for her, people that cared about her and were praying for her recovery," the nurse said.

The nurse also talked about support that she saw from Lewis' co-workers at ABC Labs. Although Lewis had only worked there for five months, the walls of her room at the burn unit were adorned with postcards and notes from her co-workers. "The postcards were just a nice reminder for Albina that people are thinking about her," the nurse said.

Monica Logan is one co-worker who keeps abreast of Lewis' progress. Logan also coordinated with Studio B Dance Center to set up a benefit to help offset some of Lewis' high medical bills. In hopes to attract patrons to the event, free beginner dance lessons were offered by one owner of Studio B Dance Center.

A varied mix of co-workers, members of the Russian community, nurses from the University Hospital burn unit ICU and complete strangers gathered to help support the cause. Besides a requested donation of $15 from the patrons, there was also a silent auction of more than 30 gifts. Most of the gifts were gift certificates for local restaurants. All of the proceeds from the event were directly contributed to a fund for Lewis.

Lewis is very determined to get her abilities back. Her husband sometimes wakes up next to her in the hospital to find her doing bicycle exercises to make her legs strong again. And though Lewis is still rehabilitating in St. Louis -- she had another surgery in July, and it might not be her last one--Logan said that Lewis' determination gives friends and co-workers hope.

August 18, 2011

Burn Survivor Leaves Hospital, Starts Next Stage of His Life at Home


As a follow-up to my August 9 blog, I found a late-July article in The Los Angeles Times about 19-year-old Derek Thomas, a burn victim whose strong determination, positive attitude and faith have helped him to get out of the hospital and go home even though he was given just a 1 percent chance of survival when he suffered third-degree burns last year.

Nearly 300 people in Encinitas, CA welcomed home Derek, who was burned over 85 percent of his body in a car crash a year ago. The crowd of friends that gathered from the local high school, church and the YMCA where Derek once worked lined up along the driveway at Scripps Rehabilitation Services, where Derek is expected to continue physical therapy for several more weeks.

Upon his arrival from the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center the crowd began cheering, shaking pom-poms and waving signs that said, "We love you D-Rock!" and "I am not a body. I am a soul!"

Earlier, at the Grossman Burn Center, Derek met with some of his rescuers for the first time: the men who helped him right after the car wreck, the emergency room personnel, and the medical staff who flew him via emergency jet to Los Angeles.

During his 11-month stay at the burn center, Derek underwent 42 surgeries and had to have every inch of his burned skin scraped off. As he was leaving for good, much of the staff was in tears as they wished Derek farewell with a pot-luck dinner of homemade dishes, including some of Derek's favorites.

At about 10 a.m. the next day, Derek sat in a chair flashing a victorious smile during a news conference. He rose briefly to speak to a room full of reporters. What he said that day should serve as an inspiration for anyone who is severely burned, or who suffers some other physical or emotional trauma and hardship in life:

"There are times when you're going to be down and you're going to think that there's nothing in you that can keep on going, But if you have faith and you believe you're not alone, then you'll come out on top."

--

August 9, 2011

A Survivor of Severe Burns Beats the Odds and Gets Back to Living


A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle offered up the amazing story of Derek Thomas, a 19-year-old athlete who for the past year has endured indescribable pain during the process of healing from third-degree burns so severe that he was given a 1 percent chance of survival by doctors.

But he has made it through the ordeal, and is working not only on getting stronger but also on becoming just another person with a normal daily routine, which is a blessing too many of us take for granted.

One day in August 2010, Derek sat in an SUV that was returning him home to San Diego from athletic training in the mountains. As he dozed off, the driver swerved the SUV, and it skidded across lanes of traffic, rolled over, and grinded along on its side. It then burst into flames.

When Derek arrived by emergency jet at the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center, he had third-degree burns across more than 85 percent of his body.

The hospital doctors had seen terrible cases before: firefighters burned on the job, students burned in chemistry labs, toddlers scalded with boiling soup. But Derek's case was among the worst--his burns penetrated to the muscle, threatening to shut down his kidneys and liver. He also could have started bleeding uncontrollably at any time.

For the next four months, Derek lay in a medically-induced coma to spare him excruciating pain. Every inch of his burned skin had to be scraped off to protect him from infection. His body swelled to more than twice its normal size.

Derek's parents and two sisters sat in a small waiting room during each of the many surgeries. Doctors had to peel skin from the few areas where Derek wasn't burned (his inner thighs and lower abdomen), stretch the skin with a machine, and then graft it a little bit at a time onto Derek's body.

Every few days, doctors repeated the process, trying to fight against infection. Derek's fever often reached 105 degrees. He also took in 7,000 calories a day through a tube, which is how much his body needed just to stay alive. He still lost more than 60 pounds over the months in a coma.

But about four months after the accident, Derek started to emerge from the coma. He learned to swallow again, and to tighten his left hand. He also learned to speak using a special tube. And on December 11 he spoke his first three words: "Happy Birthday, Mom." His family was overjoyed.

After five months, Derek was no longer in critical condition. He was alert enough to ask about his girlfriend Amanda, who was also riding in the SUV when it crashed. His parents had to tell him that she had died, which caused Derek so much psychological stress that it threatened his physical recovery.

His family and mental-health specialists helped him with the grief, but even today, it hurts Derek too much to discuss Amanda, his girlfriend. But Derek often talks to her, and he talks to God. "I channel my bad thoughts toward Him. I look to Him," he said. "It's not easy, but I try."

For Derek, the hardest part is finally over. But he will face difficult issues for the rest of his life. Here is just one of them: Before the accident, Derek was a very good-looking boy, said his friends. Now, he will never look anything like he did before the accident--but his inner strength plus counseling will help him make peace with his new appearance.

In fact, Derek's recovery will last for the rest of his life. But Derek the survivor is an inspiration to others who are severely burned. As they endure the physical and emotional pain of their injuries, other burn survivors have Derek's outstanding example to look to when they need strength.

May 25, 2011

Burn Survivors Need Help, and They Give Help Too

Just last week in Albany, GA, an event took place that highlights how devastating burn injuries can be, especially to children. But it also gave burn survivors hope for their future, and the knowledge that people care about their recovery, both physical and mental.

Because many people who get burned can't afford the doctors bills to help them recover as best as they can, the Albany Fire Department partnered with area businesses outside their local Sam's Club to raise money for those victims. Dozens of kids got to enjoy races, games, music, and even free tours of the aerial truck.

But aside from all this fun is a more important message for those families who came just to be a part of the fundraiser and show support, even if they do not know a victim of severe burns. These folks also got to learn about how to make their homes and offices safe from fire, and how to plan an escape route at home and at work from fire and especially from often-deadly smoke inhalation when a fire does begin.

The fire department raised $2,500 last year, and 90 percent of the funds go towards the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation. The other 10 percent will teach kids fire safety. Assistant Fire Chief Sebon Burns says Albany, a mid-sized town, sees its share of burn victims. "The problems are many for people who get burned," he said. "You have physical and mental scars, both of which cause pain. So we're trying to raise money to ease the stress level for the burn victims and their families."

Dennis Gardin, who was a burn victim as a teenager, says the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation is in dire need of funding. He wants to make sure burn victims have the proper support and funding. "I was burned and directly benefited from the services of the fire department," said Gardin. "As a kid, there were no services like the burn foundation for me or my family."

The burn foundation also uses this money to bring kids to a summer camp to connect with other young burn victims. And firefighters volunteer their time at the camp too.

In the midwestern part of the country, another burn victim is doing something else that is very effective in helping burn victims. In 2008, Stephanie "NieNie" Nielson was in a plane crash that burned more than 80 percent of her body. Prior to the crash, her blog, called nieniedialogues.blogspot.com, was a popular read among mothers and, now, it is a source of inspiration for millions of people worldwide--and not just burn victims. In fact, she was featured on the ABC news show "20/20" just this month.

Just three years after her accident, NieNie is still very much on the mend. Slow but steady, this devoted mother of four has a lifetime of surgeries ahead of her--and a growing circle of friends behind her.

A few weeks ago, she spoke in front of a large audience at a midwestern church during a special women's conference. She talked about how not just her doctors and her family but also her faith in God and prayer and her love for music have sustained her through some very tough times.

Try to visit NieNie's blog a few times to read about her ups and downs as she goes through her recovery from third-degree burns.

March 15, 2011

Inspiration and Hope Comes from a Victim of Severe Burns


From a story that makes most good people wonder why there is such evil in the world comes a lesson that anyone who is burned, injured, or otherwise ill can look to as hope for themselves.

In South Florida back in February, a 10-year-old boy named Victor was deliberately doused with chemicals by his adoptive father and left to die. Fortunately, the boy was spotted in the front seat of his father's pickup truck by a passerby, who called police. Victor had third-degree burns from the chemicals, and it did not seem likely that he would live.

He spent weeks at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, at first barely conscious but over time responding to treatments and making progress. Almost as important, his mental state was aided by the bonds he made with other patients--and in return, those bonds also aided the psyche of each patient who interacted with Victor while he was in the hospital.

"The boy's about God. The first thing he told me is, 'God gave me another chance to live,'" a patient who was in the hospital room a few doors down from Victor told a WSVN television crew. "He also asked me, 'Why did God put us in this position?' I told him, 'It's not God. It's some people who do evil things.' Then victor asked, 'Why do people do evil things?' I said, 'I don't have the answer to that, but everything that you're going through, you have to pray.' And then, the next day, he came up to me and said, 'I prayed,' and I said, 'Just keep praying.'"

The patient says that he and Victor became friends quickly, in part by doing card tricks together. Victor also asked the man if he played football. "I said, 'Yeah, I used to play football in college.' He replied, 'You're a big guy.' And then, one of the nurses came by and said, 'You could be Victor's bodyguard.'" This made Victor smile.

Many in South Florida have been praying for Victor's recovery, and the video that WSVN obtained shows a small glimpse into his life as he recovers from the abuse he suffered. In the cell-phone video shot by another patient, Victor can be seen rolling on a skateboard down a hallway in the hospital. Victor is trying to make friends and find normalcy in the midst of the continuing medical treatment and other chaos in his life, now that he is out of the hospital.

But Victor's positive spirit has helped not just him, but those around him. "I think that God put me in the hospital for a reason to show me that somebody else could have something worse than you in your life," said the patient who befriended Victor. "I think the abuse was horrible because he's so innocent. Why would somebody do something to this young boy that is so loving? All Victor did was make me smile."

To read more about this story, and to see the video of Victor, click here.

October 15, 2010

Surviving a Burn Injury

Burns are one of the most devastating experiences an individual can have. Un- like having an illness or disease that has been diagnosed after a battery of tests and examinations, no one expects to suffer a burn. Who expects the cold water to turn boiling hot without warning while taking a shower? Who would imagine that an old woman scalds herself in the bath tub resulting in a devastating injury which causes enormous physical and mental suffering? Who goes to sleep safe in their bed only to wake up in the midst of a blazing fire? Firemen face the risk of being burned every time they respond to a call. These are some of the real life stories witnessed by a retired Chaplain who has served in one of our nation's top metropolitan burn centers. She has witnessed the worst of the worst, the miracles of modern medicine, the incredible strength of the human spirit and the ability of the body to heal. She will share what she has learned, what she has seen, and what other burn survivors have gone through. You are invited to share your personal story as well.