The following is a first-hand account of a survivor of severe burns, as told to CNN.com. This story should give hope to all victims of severe burns that they can overcome their injuries, and lead a productive and happy life.
“I came to America as a transfer student in the fall of 2004. I did three years of computer engineering in India and then transferred to Purdue University Calumet. On July 2, 2005, just a month before graduation, a man who lived on the first floor of my apartment building set fire to his own apartment deliberately.
The fire started at 4:30 a.m. My roommate and I could not jump out, because the balcony and windows were engulfed in flames. As my roommate fell unconscious in front of me, I started running down the stairs but I also passed out from smoke inhalation. A firefighter found my body a few minutes later and pulled me out of the building.
As the paramedics were taking me to the hospital, I heard one of them say, ‘This guy is 95 percent burned–he doesn’t have a chance to survive.’ At that moment, I thought about my family and how I came to America to get good education, and now I didn’t have a chance to live. I was soon unconscious again, and I woke up later in the University of Chicago burn unit–four months later, because they had me in an induced coma for all that time.
The man’s wife, his baby and my roommate all died in the fire. After seven months in Chicago, I was transferred to Wishard Health Services in Indianapolis for my rehabilitation. I don’t have any family in America so I lived in a nursing home. I stayed there for over two years while I went through reconstructive surgeries to regain range of motion in my arms.
For more than five years, I went through an intense therapy program. I wore a face mask for three years and pressure garments on my entire body; I wore dynamic splints on my hands, wrists and elbows to increase range of motion, endured daily dressing changes on my wounds, and performed painful exercises to restore function in all of my joints.
I wanted to get a business degree so I studied in my extra time. I scheduled my final exam and got a six-hour pass to leave the nursing home to take the test. I scored well on the test and was accepted into the Indiana University Kelley School of Business in Indianapolis. I chose the part-time program because I didn’t know how much I would be able to handle.
My doctors did everything they could to help me regain range of motion in my arms. Even after 54 surgeries, I am still very limited. I don’t have any finger movement in my left hand and limited finger movement in my right hand. I type with one finger. I rely on various adaptive equipment to perform the activities of daily living.
I have not seen most of my family in India since the accident seven years ago, because I am still waiting for a U.S. green card. My sister has been denied a visa four times in trying to visit me.
I have been able to come out of this tragedy because of the values that my parents instilled in me and the help from my occupational therapist. My parents taught me the value of education, hard work and perseverance. They taught me to be happy in life no matter what the circumstances. They taught me that “we can always find someone who is in worse condition than we are in. So be thankful for what you have.”
I call my occupational therapist ‘my guardian angel.’ God sent her into my life when I was in the deepest and darkest pit of my life. She took me to church every Sunday while I was in the nursing home, which brought some normalcy into my life. Today, I can live independently because of her hard work.
After three years, I graduated with my degree in May 2012. I am now seeking a job in finance. To give back to the community, I volunteered in the Wishard Burn Unit’s therapy department between many of my surgeries. I still visit the Wishard Burn Unit in Indianapolis and talk to other burn patients about my experience. I also lecture at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis to occupational therapy students about all the adaptive equipment I use to live independently.
I have had some wonderful people in my life who have helped me in my journey. I plan to do the same for other people who have suffered severe burns.
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.