Survival During Changing Times – As a burn survivor we all have a story, and for some it may be easier to write about, but I find it difficult and felt that it would not make for great reading.
I was burned at 9 months; actually it was Easter Saturday in 1965. It is not something that is worth remembering for me so have never held the exact date in my mind.
My Mother was very young when I was born. At that time there was no social safety net (welfare). My Uncle and his wife took in my mother and me. My mother worked as their nanny. I am not really sure where they lived. I think it was in Winnipeg MB.
There was a big “to do” there that weekend as my Father returned to town to visit us. My Aunt had made some French fries and left the deep fryer cord hanging off the counter. It was still plugged in and the cord was right above my head.
I spent a lot of time at Toronto Sick Children’s Hospital after that.
As a burn survivor the toughest part of my life as far as dealing with my burn was my childhood and early adulthood. It was so tough; I never had many friends in school.
In elementary school, I was picked on a lot. I am not sure if it was because I was Native or burned. For the first couple of years I wore a hat. I was so naive I didn’t know I wasn’t normal. I just had burns on me. I was lucky to have been boarded out to a family who had older children. Whenever the other children made me cry they would take care of me, and talk to the other children.
After Elementary school I was a sponsored by a Shriner from Findlay Ohio and I was fitted with wigs every year. These were very high quality wigs, made with real human hair. The only problem with them was Natives have straight hair and the style of the day was the mullet.
I also had many surgeries to my face and hands; to separate and straighten my fingers. Because they expected to perform so many surgeries I lived with my sponsors for one year. During that time I was a celebrity of sorts. Many of the children, and some adults, had never seen a Canadian let alone a “real Indian.” I even appeared in the local newspaper paper with a full page article.
I went to a high school, back in Canada, where I was the only Native student and with my interests I took all the advance courses that were offered. There were a total of 1,500 students at the high school who were all of Eastern European descent, entirely Caucasian – except for me.
While at school I found that I could easily do the work, but with my confidence level at a low ebb I seldom tried very hard. Some days it was hard enough to just appear at school. One of the reasons was I had to wear a wig. That makes me laugh now, but at that time my emotions were on the other side of the spectrum. I was always asked if I was wearing a wig, sometimes the kids even tried to pull it off my head. I felt very insecure about having to wear a wig.
In life today I work in a metal distributing warehouse. I am in a co-parenting venture with my cousin Erin. We attended a few classes to help us identify and cope with some of the difficulties we might experience. This training helped me see how a big part of my personality was established by the trauma my burns have caused me during my life.
I was thinking about my mother’s story too. She had to take care of me by herself for 2 or 3 years after my accident. I really have a problem referring to it as that. She always kept me sheltered and protected me. All the pictures I see of myself I always had a toque or a cap on my head. I never really talked to her about her experiences. It is such a difficult subject for her. One thing she did tell me was how a bus driver told her to cover me up because I was scaring the other children on the bus. How the times have changed.
Erin suggested I find a group to help me heal myself. This led me to connect with the BCPFF Burn Fund began with my being part of the first Focus Group Session for The Future Is Mine Program and have been a participant and volunteer over eight years. I am glad to help with the group at the Bright Nights Volunteer Day, and have enjoyed the various activities I am able to participate in with my family.
Survival in changing times – I am glad to be where I am today!