My name is Stasi Manser.
On December 5th, 1969 I woke very early to the sound of my 9-month-old baby sister wanting to be fed her morning bottle. I got up and decided that rather than waking my mom I would prepare the bottle for her myself. While the milk was heating it seemed like a good idea to also sneak in a cup of hot cocoa for myself so I pulled a chair closer to the stove to climb up and reach the cocoa powder out of the cupboard above. I was wearing a nightgown which caught in the flame under the heating pot of milk. I knew I was in trouble and tried to put the fire out myself before calling for help. My mother heard my calls and came quickly to find most of my clothing in flames. She used a blanket to roll me on the floor and extinguish the fire.
I was taken to two southern Alberta hospitals both unequipped to help me. I had suffered 3rd, 4th and 5th degree burns to over 90% of my body. I was finally transferred to Foothills Hospital in Calgary, AB. – there was no burn unit and I was admitted to the maternity ward and isolated to combat the risks of infection. The consensus amongst the many medical staff overseeing my care was that there was no possible way for me to recover and I would not be able to survive the injuries I had sustained.
Our family was devastated, however, knowing I was a strong spirited child they remained faithful that I would survive. My mother insisted the Doctors continue to keep me alive. The initial care plan was to try to keep me still, comfortable and minimize any risk for infection. I had very little undamaged skin of my own and skin grafts using cadaver tissue were unsuccessful. The lead plastic surgeon in my care team went away to a conference of plastic surgeons almost two months after the accident , advising my family to prepare themselves – I was not strong enough to continue to survive.
Upon his return, despite the fact my weight had dropped from 49 lbs. to 19 lbs., I demonstrated my progress by getting up and walking around my bed. It became apparent that there needed to be an action plan for my recovery!
I was eventually transferred to Alberta Children’s Hospital for rehabilitation. I needed to learn to walk again on my own and they started skin grafting with what little tissue remained. One year and 11 days after the accident I was discharged from hospital and finally able to join my Mother and three younger siblings at home again.
In the early years after my accident, treatment options for me were limited and I travelled on four occasions to the Shriners Burn Institute in Boston, MA to undergo numerous reconstructive surgeries over a four-year period. The travelling was difficult on our family and I was away for extended periods. As I grew, my scars would tear during growth spurts and I underwent countless surgeries to help ease the discomfort. We battled ongoing challenges with reconstruction of my face, neck, arms and legs due to infection and limited availability of healthy tissues for grafting. Eventually they could help me closer to home and I began receiving treatment in Lethbridge and Calgary over the next 20 years.
Life has not been without challenges or struggle to feel accepted. Given my age at the time of my accident the Doctors felt that I could grow up as a ‘normal’ child. I had many wonderful friendships and a busy life filled with a great deal of love and support from my family and the communities we lived in. Looking back, the most difficult and challenging aspect of my recovery was an unknown sense of isolation and fear of acceptance. I rarely encountered others who had been injured as I had been. Having faced many difficult situations around “fitting in” throughout my childhood, teenage years and early adult life, I grew up determined that would not be treated as a person with a disability or handicap. I have had a full life with a successful career and I have been blessed with two amazing children of my own.
In 2012 I contacted the BCPFF Burn Fund for information, wanting to find support but not knowing what may be available for long term survivors. Through that phone call I was immediately included as a member of the Future Is Mine Adult Burn Survivors Community. This connection has brought so much joy and inspiration to my life: I have attended 2 conferences dedicated to burn survival, healing, treatment options and building community; I have also attended peer support meetings and social events bringing me closer to others.
The BCPFF Burn Fund and the Adult Burn Survivors Community has provided me with a safe environment while connecting me to others that have had similar experiences and relate to the challenges I faced throughout my life. This community of support and empathy has made an indescribable difference to my own healing and has had a profound impact on my life choices. Most importantly, I have come to be able to accept and fully embrace how my experience can benefit others which has helped me to realize my own healing; after so many years! Through the wonderful support of this community, I will continue to thrive, learn and grow personally.