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Arlene Sampson

Don’t Grieve – You WILL Find A Way

In April 1992 I was involved in a devastating house fire. I was very fortunate that I was the only victim in this tragic accident and when rescued was barely alive.

I had managed to crawl towards our living room window through smoke and flames before collapsing. Flown to Vancouver General Hospital I began the long healing journey that would prove to be my biggest challenge of my life. Severely burned and scarred to 70% of my body I lost my fingers and my facial features were burned beyond recognition. It took months of skin graphs and numerous surgeries to repair my face and body to the best of the surgeons’ ability. It would take months of constructive surgery to create some partial facial features such as eyelids, lips and add a skin to separate my chin from my chest to create a neck for me in order to be mobile. This was grueling and extensive constructive surgery but they were successful.

After a few months of reconstructive surgery and recovery at VGH I was finally given a mirror to take my first look at my face. When I first saw myself I dropped the mirror and wept for hours. My husband tried to console me as I asked him “Why didn’t they just let me die…I am a FREAK!” I refused to eat or see anyone after that first encounter with the mirror. I went into a deep depression and refused to do any therapy or associate with anyone for at least a week.

I am not certain as to what made me decide that I wasn’t going to let this beat me, but I believe it was when I first saw my daughter that I changed my attitude. There was also a home video that was mailed to me of my youngest son’s second birthday party which helped me realize that my children and the rest of the family were a great inspiration and the reason I needed to fight and get out of the hospital. I knew I had a long road ahead of me but knowing I had my children, a loving husband and all my family supporting me…I was not going to give up. I was so fortunate that I had the love of my family and friends surrounding me. If it were not for them I truly believe I would not have made it through this whole ordeal.

The next step was my rehabilitation at GF Strong. The first step was to accept the fact I had lost my fingers, my facial features and most of my body. This was the most difficult part of my healing journey. Many nights and days I grieved for what I had lost. At times I felt there was no point in my living or even trying to work on myself. My spirit was broken. I was so depressed, and angry at the Creator for allowing me to live through this awful experience. Each time I would be ready to give up I would always focus on my children and my husband who were waiting for my to return home. After entering GF Strong I was taught different ways in which to feed, dress, and take care of myself. Something as simple as tying my shoes, zipping or buttoning my clothes would be the most challenging. I taught myself different techniques and figured out ways to utilize what was left of my hand, which was my thumb to feed and dress myself. With my will I would definitely find a way. I was not going to let a few setbacks stand in my way. Although I still have moments of regrets and ‘what if?’ I did things differently, I do not think I would have become the courageous and determined individual I have become today. All that I have endured and conquered these past few years has taught me to be grateful for what I have today. When I think about all that I have been through all that comes to mind is…? Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form. I refuse to grieve for what I lost but am grateful for all I have accomplished in the last twenty years since this tragic accident. It made me become the strong-willed Gitxsan Woman I am today.