At home the memories of the kitchen would haunt me every time I walked by the kitchen. For months I would lean to one side when I walked because it would hurt to walk straight. I was afraid of taking showers and I was also afraid of hot water. I didn’t want to get burned again so I would always take a bath. My mother would have to put cream on my burns and wrap me back up. Every time I took a shower someone had to be in the bathroom, so that I would not fall and open my wounds. Eventually we moved out of the apartment where my accident occurred. I attended eight grade which was challenging. My peers would stare and point at my arm, I felt like they was laughing at me. After a while, they got to know me personally. I overcame the stares and the looks, it does not bother me anymore. I am now 17 and I recently graduated High School. I showed everyone that I can do whatever I set my mind to. My family used to tell me that I can out of my shell. I’ve come out of my shell by being more open minded about my situation, talking to people about my experience. Not trying to hide my skin but letting others know that I am human too. I made a list of things that make me feel shy, uncomfortable or withdrawn. I tell people who are curious about my burns, that I am proud of the young woman that I have become. I know that I am beautiful inside and out and that is all that matters to me. Knowing that I respect myself plus everyone else around me there is no stopping my will to strive for the best. Being burned is not just skin deep it affects your personality. Just learning to cope with it is the hardest part. Some move on and some don’t. I moved on. I didn’t want to be sad all the time or fell pity. There is still a life out there and I plan on living it. In fact, I start college in the fall.
When I got home I had to get use to being there. I needed my mother to change my bandages. I attended a barbeque with friends down stairs from my grandmother house. I didn’t stay very long because my back was hurting me. My shirt was stuck to my back and I could not remove the shirt. Unfortunately I was re-admitted to the hospital. The second time being there was easier than the first time. Technically it was still stressful being back in a place I was trying so hard to avoid. The only thing that needed to heal was my back. So they put a certain type of patch that went around my whole body. The patch contained some kind of medicine. The nurse never told me that I would constantly feel sharp pain. When I was in the bed I couldn’t move a certain way because of the pain. The second time in the hospital I stayed by myself. That didn’t bother me because I needed some time to be alone to think about how my life would be. I would read books to keep my mind off the pain. Sometimes I thought about how being burned affected my family. When I came home I still had to attend weekly visit to the doctors, physical therapy and home school. That’s when they gave me my JOBST suit. A JOBST suit is a custom pressure garment. I had to wear it 23 hours a day, only taking it off when I took a shower and putting moisture on my burns. The type of lotion I used was Lubriderm. I received summer school because I had to constantly be watched. That was hard because it was just the teacher and me. But luckily I passed through out all of the pain I endured. Seeing people just like me made me feel like I was not alone. My doctors recommended burn camp so that I could meet other patients like me. Connecticut Burn Camp was life changing. I never knew that so many children were burned. Even the camp counselor shared the same experience. That was the first time I wore a bathing suit in front of friends. No one judge us because we were all burned or scared. We always asked each other to share out stories. I plan on being a camp counselor when I turn eighteen. I want to give hope to other kids and let them know that they get through this tough time.
The surgery was for a skin graft where I had 3rd degree burns. In surgery the doctors used a metal medical object so that they could peel the skin off from a healthy part of my body. Then the graft would be placed on the part of my body that had 3rd degree burn. After the surgery I had to stay in bed for a whole week which was so uncomfortable. They would monitor the amount of food I ate every day to make sure that I was eating the proper amount. Going to the bathroom in the pail was horrible. Depending on others was hard, because I was 12 years old; I was a big girl and not a baby. I felt like an angle with one of her wings cut off, I could not fly. But I always held my head up. While in the hospital I attended therapy, which was very difficult for me. I had to move my right arm so that my joints would not be stuck. Trying to lift my arm over my head or reach for a certain object was challenging. I played games with the nurse but I would have to put my left one behind my back and play with my right hand. Because I part of therapy was to stretch my right that was burned arm. Playing with just my right hand was good exercise therapy. Each day I got one step close to recovery. Stretching my back to loosen up my muscles brought me to tears. I told myself that I would never stop pushing myself. When it was time for me to leave the hospital I was still kind of scared to go out into the real world. To prepare me for discharge the doctors set me up with a psychologist. I talked to her about everything. I worried that I would not be accepted in school. I felt like no one would like me because I was burned, I became depressed feeling guilty, thinking that it was my fault. The psychologist insisted that I tell my mother that I was glad it was me instead of her. The psychologist came to see me in the hospital. She knew how I felt about people starring at me. But I knew that everyone was going to look at me different. She prepared me and gave me more confidence about myself. A few days later I got to go home the burn unit thrown me a going home party. I was ready to go home and be with my family. I helped my mother pack all my belongings. I knew I could not be in the sun so my mother brought me a jump suit. I was starting a new chapter in my life as a burn survivor. I knew I was ready for the new challenges that awaited me.
The new room was kind of an eye opener, because I could see everyone coming in and out of the hospital. I was pleased to see other people leaving the hospital, seeing others leave kind of gave me strength to get well. A challenge that I faced was learning how to walk again. My legs were swollen. I struggled to get out of bed to walk around the hospital. There was a play room and every morning I would have to practice walking. I had school in the play room where I met a few children that were burned. My sisters and brothers were coming to see me, I had the opportunity to walk and greet them in the play room. They couldn’t come into my hospital room because they were too young. I was so sad, because they didn’t want to touch me. I didn’t understand why they were scared of me, I was their family. But I didn’t blame them, they were too young to understand. But we did make a jewelry box together which was fun. I got to paint it pink and blue. My family had to come into the room with scrubs and gloves on, so that I would not get an infection. My family would come and see me all the time, they brought me flowers, food or just show me how much they love me. They were so supportive, no matter what they were at the hospital. My grandfather told previous to the accident, my mother went to a man who told her that something bad was going to happen to me. We prayed after the accident that I would heal. Even my friends called me just to check up on me. My mother was in the hospital with me nonstop but she needed a break to go home to my brothers and sisters. I would have bad dreams about the accident and wake up crying. I was so scared one night that I asked one of the nurses if he could stay with me in the room until I fall back to sleep. His name was Dr. Love. He taught me how to be strong. He would always say never give up no matter what you do. I appreciated everything he did for me. That night the doctors called my mother and told her that I needed a blood transfusion. She did not know that I was having surgery right away.
My mother was in the ambulance with me. The ride was so bumpy and confusing. I started feeling pain on my back I did not know what it was. I told the paramedic what I was felling. She lifted me up a little so that she could see what was wrong. While doing so my mother started crying. To this day I don’t know what she saw but I have an idea. They took me to Cornell Hospital where I was admitted to the burn unit. When I arrived at Cornell they took me into an emergency room where the doctors would remove the covers. I hated that because every time they remove the covers I would look down to see my body. I had what looked like water blisters on my body. The doctor told my mother that I was burned over 36% of my body. They were getting me ready to remove the dead skin. For some reason I was so sleepy and all I wanted to do was sleep. When I woke up all I wanted was food, and luckily my mother brought food for me. Seeing myself in bandages made me feel sad. I really didn’t know what happened to me. I could not recall the accident at that point in time. All I knew was that I was feeling pain everywhere. It felt like pins were sticking in me. They put me into a room for seriously injured patients. I was in the ICU (intensive care unit). I was washed daily to remove dead skin in a room that was called The Tank. I hated the Tank, you would have to get two baths a day. The one in the morning would be in the Tank and the one at night would be in your bed. They would remove the bandages and scrub at my burns. I would scream to my mom and tell her that I don’t want them to touch me. Begging her to tell them to stop, “mommy please don’t let them touch me”. It got so bad to I was asked the doctors if I could wash myself. The water came out full blast, I would be freezing cold when they were done. Heading back to my room, I would be shivering asking for more blankets.The doctors moved me out of that room a few days later.
My mother moved our family to New York in search of a better life. It was stressful living in New York, We had to go to a shelter to find a place to stay. Seeing my mother struggle was really hard for me and my brothers and sisters. My mother has six kids, with me and my twin brother being the oldest. We never really understood why my mother left Georgia, and we never asked. Our very first apartment in Brooklyn was not what we were use to. It was only a one bedroom apartment. I had to share a room with my brothers and sisters. We had been in the apartment for about a month when this accident happened. August 14, 2004 will always stay in my mind as a reminder. My mother wanted to cook Sunday dinner for the family. She was boiling chicken on the stove. We were straightening up the house so that we could play afterwards. My little brother and I were told to clean the kitchen. While cleaning I opened the oven door and all I remember is the stove tilting forward and the pot with the boiling water sliding towards me. I fell on the floor along with the pot that fell on me. The water was very hot! As soon as it hit my skin I was screaming. I ran out of the kitchen and into the living room. All I could do was cry and scream. My mother called 911. They told her to put me in the tub and run cold water. Sitting there I was wondering why this just happened to me. Crying and shivering at the same time I heard the fire trucks and the police in front of my building. When they arrived upstairs they took me out of the cold water and then put me into a chair. My skin was wrinkled in certain places where I knew that I was burned. I remember telling the firefighters that I didn’t want to die, I was crying for help.