Being A Survivor Not A Victim – Where better to start my story then at the beginning…
I was burned while on a camping trip with my aunt, uncle, brother and family friends. It was a great day by the lake at the campsite and I was lounging around the campfire with another boy. It was a beautiful summer day and I was enjoying relaxing without a worry or care. The other boy was poking the fire with a stick and the embers and smoke making their way from the flames fascinated me. Little did I know that one of those embers would cause a ripple effect that would leave an impact on my life whether I was ready or not.
An ember landed on my nylon track pants, and it began to melt the material to my shin. I could feel the warmth on my leg, but I was only eight years old, so I thought that it was just because it was a hot day in the summer, and I was sitting next to the fire. When I finally realized that my pants were on fire and melting to my skin I panicked. My first instinct was to run to the lake and I sprinted straight for it from my chair. Fortunately, my brother tackled me to the ground before I got too far and rolled me around. My aunt and uncle quickly grabbed a wet towel, started the car and began the drive to the hospital, over an hour away. The only thing I remember from the drive was the stinging pain on my leg and my aunt’s face turned back from the front seat checking on me.
I finally got to the hospital and was taken care of by the doctors and nurses there. I flew from Cranbrook back home to Vancouver shortly after and began the long healing process. The process included weekly visits to the burn unit, a few weeks in the hospital for surgery, and months of wearing a skin compressor and applying ointment to my burn and skin graft multiple times a day. The whole time I was limited in what sports I could play and how much I could move around.
Even though I got through all that pain and trauma, I can honestly say I wouldn’t have been able to bear the burden and move past my demons without my loving family, loyal friends, and the Burn Fund- more specifically the Burn Camp. The summer after my burn I was mailed information and an application for Burn Camp. The Burn Fund contacted my dad multiple times about me attending. At the time I was very self-conscious about my scars, but at the same time I didn’t think I needed to attend camp because I thought I was over it. The same thing happened year after year. My dad would get the application in the mail, try to convince me to go to camp and I would refuse. It wasn’t until seven years after I was burned that I said, “Yeah, sure I’ll go it’s only a week and I’m not doing anything else during the summer.” It is a decision that I now regret not making 6 years earlier.
The entire week was easily one of the greatest memories that I’ll ever have. I will truly cherish it for the rest of my life. Water fights, river rafting, and riding ATVs at Whistler are just a few things we did that week; all with other children and teenagers that have been burned. Every single camper was friendly, comfortable and was having a good time. Looking back at it now I can see that it was because we are connected at a deeper level than most summer camps and groups. We all experienced the pain, agony, trauma, teasing, and isolation that come with being burned badly. Even if I hadn’t felt like I belonged, or enjoyed the activities we did, I would still have been able to say that I took something more important away from Burn Camp. I am a burn survivor not a burn victim!
I lived to tell the tale of a tragic accident that occurred and it didn’t cripple me- it strengthened me. I realized that I shouldn’t be ashamed of my scars, but that I can be proud and wear them like a badge of honor. The Burn Fund was a steady source of support for me even when I wouldn’t accept it. Without the firefighters, nurses, doctors and volunteers of the Burn Fund, I doubt that moving on would have been as easy. The support of the Burn Fund even continued as I entered my post-secondary education when I received a scholarship to help me pursue my degree. They have forever changed my perspective and I have even been lucky enough to volunteer and offer the same help to other survivors.
To all the members, volunteers, firefighters, nurses, and fellow survivors, thank you and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of this community.