The Power of Positive Thinking – My name is Sharad Mohan, and my story starts in the summer of 2003. I was 20 years old, a 3rd year student at UBC, with a love for the party life.
Driving home late one Friday, I recall thinking how great my life was, and little did I know how my life was about to be changed! The next morning, I heard my sister, who then burst into my room yelling, “Sharad the kitchen’s on fire!” I jumped out of bed, and ran to the kitchen. There was a pot on the stove with a flame rising about 3 feet high. I grabbed it with my bare hands, and ran out of the kitchen throwing the pot into the backyard.
Job well done I thought, until I noticed my entire back was in flames – I was wearing a cotton t-shirt and shorts. I screamed and ran back into the kitchen and dropped and rolled. It was then I realized that when they say “stop, drop, and roll”, it’s more of a drop, roll around like crazy, with a few kicks and screams in there as well. After what felt like an eternity, even though it was probably just about 10 – 15 seconds, the flames were finally out.
I was in a state of shock. My sister immediately called 911 even though I told her not to as I was “fine”. Then I looked down at my body, and realized, that not all was fine. My right arm was completely white, and had skin hanging from it. The nails of my right hand were gone. Most of my shirt had burnt off and my shorts were hanging on a thread. My back had skin hanging off it, and strangely enough through all of this I felt absolutely no pain due to the shock.
The ambulance and the fire engine came in less than 2 minutes. I recall walking out of my house, and walking down the driveway with my arms out. The paramedics poured water all over me, and wrapped me like a mummy. During our ride to Lions Gate Hospital I kept them entertained by talking about the Vancouver Canucks, and other hockey news in general. I knew something was very wrong, but had to overcome fear through strong positive energy.
When I arrived at Lions Gate Hospital, I was rushed into the ER, and remember both my parents were there. I was surrounded by nurses and a doctor, and within a few minutes the consensus was that I needed to be rushed to VGH. I was wheeled out of ER and recall saying “Don’t worry about me … I’ll be fine”, as wanted to have a calming effect on my parents.
When I arrived at VGH I asked the doctor “Could I possibly die from this” and he looked at me and said, “Yes”. It is from here, my journey began. It was a long fight upwards, but one which tested my inner strength, and has made me today stronger than I ever could be had I not experienced this trauma.
I was in bed for 2 months, during which time I had three surgeries for skin grafts, one procedure for a blood clot, and a kidney infection. I had third degree burns on my entire right arm, most of my back, the back of my neck and head. I had 2nd degree burns on my left forearm, and both my legs. My donor sites were my legs and my stomach. The first surgery was probably the scariest as the surgeons had used skin off my stomach for my grafting surgery, and placed gauze on it. So when I woke up, I recall feeling my stomach and feeling a scaly substance and I freaked out. I thought it was my skin! Luckily it wasn’t. The first burn bath was a horrible experience as well, as it was so painful being transferred from my bed to the shower room.
During those two months in VGH, the surgeons, the nurses, and the nutritionists were simply amazing. Before each surgery I was told that it came with risks, because if the grafts didn’t hold, then they’d have to amputate that part of the body. I simply took each warning with a grain of salt, and thought about the best case scenario. Not once did I get worried or fear the surgery, as I knew that the body needs every ounce of strength to fight, and negative energy would only weaken the drive to fight. Hence the positive thoughts, the willingness to keep on fighting, and the excitement of envisioning what lay ahead of me, kept me going. My Mom always said that I would be driving the new car we had just bought within months. At the time, it did seem crazy, but that’s the exact kind of drive I needed to keep going forward. I did have one breakdown however – I recall being in my bed, and hearing a Beyonce song on the radio, and that was probably the first time I cried during the whole ordeal. The main reason being, at that point, I didn’t think I would ever be able to have a social life again, such as being able to go to a nightclub with friends.
In addition to my positive energy, one of the other main reasons I was able to fight the battle was due to the people around me. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by family and great friends. My Mom was by my side every single day and night, and knowing that she was there during the nightmares when I was in pain, was a gift. I also had 3 of my aunts come to town and take care of me. Friends came in to visit and make me laugh, while one in particular visited me three times a week to keep me up to date with my Math lectures (I took a Math course at UBC to keep myself challenged). My dad was great as well, as he persisted in getting me to write every single day, which kept my fingers from webbing over and locking up. As annoying as it was at the time, I look back now, and am so glad that he kept pushing me to write, write, and write.
Now I was ready for my occupational and physical therapy – having to learn how to walk again, and get my motor skills back. There were the frustrations of picking up a pencil and seeing myself weighing a mere 100lbs (I was 200 lbs pre-accident). Also having to wear pressure garments from head to toe 24 hours a day, but if it weren’t for the garments, my recovery would not have been nearly as successful as it has been.
This is my biggest recommendation to a recent burn survivor – Wear the garments no matter how uncomfortable or itchy they may feel, as it pays off in the long run!
With determination and lots of hard work, after a few months I was back into the swing of things. Writing my final exam at UBC, all bandaged up, and passing, along with driving the new car. The following spring, I applied for jobs, and even though I had scars and not in the best physical state, I landed a job in a client-facing role as a Business Analyst! I had set myself goals, and was determined to hit each and every one of them ~ and I did!
By going through this experience, I have had the opportunity of really believing in the power of positive energy by putting it to the ultimate test. I am now very involved with the BCPFF Burn Fund/The Future Is Mine, and as an Ambassador I am there for other recent burn survivors so that they can see that there is in fact light at the end of the tunnel.
I have been made a much stronger person through having a very positive attitude. I do believe that everything in life happens for a reason, and while I will live the rest of my life with visible scars, I am fortunate enough to look at life from multiple angles today; more angles than I would have had I not had the opportunity to experience this journey with a positive attitude.