Cindy Sherle

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A Bright Future Lies Ahead – I was born and raised in North Vancouver. My Dad loved boating and anything to do with the water. My brother, sister and I took turns helping Dad with the boat chores. My Dad worked at a refinery and had the opportunity to buy and bring home the odd barrel of gas for us to transfer into jerry cans to fuel the boat.

My accident took place in our backyard on a very warm July 28th in 1982. My Dad and I were transferring gas from the barrel to jerry cans near our open basement door. Unbeknownst to us, some gas has spilled and with the heat of the day the fumes ignited the pilot light in our furnace and sent a fireball out our basement door, which I had my back to.

I first saw my Dad on fire then it was me. I remember my Dad saying, “run to the grass!” but I honestly couldn’t figure out what was happening. It all happened so fast. My sister was washing the car at the time and thankfully put us “out”. After that I remember waiting for the fire truck and ambulance. I didn’t think anything other than wow it hurt a lot and wow, the bathing suit and shorts I was wearing aren’t on me anymore! I was 13 at the time. It is truly difficult to face a burn injury at any age; but being 13 years old and a girl with significant scarring, the emotional trauma was deep with little awareness and education on its impact in the 1980’s.

Arriving at the hospital I remembered that my girlfriends and I had plans to go to the beach the next day. I yelled to my Mom as I was wheeled into Emergency, “Tell the girls I won’t be at the beach tomorrow, because I got an awesome sunburn!” Little did I know what the next 3 months had in store for me.

My Dad spent a month in the VGH Burn Ward with burns to 28% of his body. I suffered 3rd degree burns to 48% of my body. As many, many people have said to me over the years, I am so lucky to have the burns on the back of me, not the front. Obviously they don’t understand the grafting process! I wish I could say the whole burn ward experience was horrible, trust me there were times (the burn baths, the pre-grafting process!) but the patient nurses, understanding doctors and the really cool patients, made it bearable.

During my 3 months in the VGH Burn Ward, I had five surgeries. I didn’t fully understand what had happened to my body. I loved going to the beach and being in the water and after one look at my body after all the surgeries, I pretty much knew those days were over.

Once leaving the protective cocoon of the Burn Ward, it was time to start the healing journey. I wore my Jobst garments for two years from my neck to ankles and endured physiotherapy for the same. My family and friends were so supportive through my recovery. Back in the early 1980’s there wasn’t any emotional treatment for the burn survivor. I sort of muddled my way through the bad times and there were plenty!

I look back and cringe remembering how I treated my family and how sorry I felt for myself. I was jealous of anyone who didn’t have scars like me and how dare they show off their bodies! I was full of anger. I finally sought help from a psychologist almost ten years later. With her help, I was able to lose the dark cloud that surrounded me. I wish I hadn’t spent so many years feeling sorry for myself or hurting the ones around me.

It has been 30 years since my accident. I am happily married to the most wonderful man and we have two beautiful daughters. It took me a long time to gather the courage to contact “The Future Is Mine”. Through Ann’s warm and solid encouragement, I participate in events with the organization and I am so excited to volunteer at Burn Camp this summer. It seems crazy to say, but even though it has been so long since my accident, it seems like it was just yesterday. I will never forget, but each day I will move forward and be happy. I hope my story can help others by understanding that each will have a unique story and recovery process, but that there is a future and it’s very bright!


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