For many Feb 14 is a day to celebrate love and happiness. For me, Valentine’s Day represents, in my mothers words, “A tragedy of epic proportions.” Most people have seen my horrific scars, very few know the story as I don’t talk about it unless asked. This is my story:
It happened on February 14, 1987. I was 11.5 months old. My parents had gone on a ski-doo rally with our neighbors. We had an amazing babysitter who was taking care of my sister in the living-room as she was sick.
The little trouble maker I was, wondered away, grabbed a little chair and pushed it to the bathroom and climbed up into the sink. To help you imagine how small I was, I could fit into a small bathroom sink perfectly. I turned on the taps and because the hot water tank was directly beside the bathroom, the water became boiling hot instantly. Before my babysitter could save me the damage had been done. I was rushed from the farm and taken by ambulance to Saskatoon, SK, Canada. The burns were catastrophic. 33% of my little body was third degree burns and another 20% were 2nd degree.
They could not do surgery right away as I had no skin left to repair the burns. It took 10 days for my skin to grow on my 2nd degree burnt leg, they then took me for my first surgery on my 1st birthday, Feb 24, 1987. They skinned my “good” leg and my bum of its “good” skin to graft it to my entire left leg and left arm.
I got serious infections and ran 104 + fever for 2 weeks. I kept pulling out my IV’s so they had to put the IV in my forehead and strap my arms down to the bed to stop me from hurting myself. Another 10 days later they did my second surgery, again skinning my “good” leg of all its re-grown skin to finish grafting my left leg. I remained in the hospital for 6 weeks with a total of only 2 surgeries! I had so many amazing visitors and love and prayers sent our way which I am Forever grateful for.
The entire time my mother stayed by my side. To her, these memories feel like yesterday, as it would for any parent. She saw it all, and for most of us parents who can imagine, felt helpless. She wanted to give me all her skin but it wouldn’t work. She tried every way to help me in the hospital but could only hold my hand or brush my hair as i was too full of bandages for her to hold. If it wasn’t for her constant love and determination that we were going to get out of there, when so many other babies didn’t get to, I’m sure I Wouldn’t be here today. For the next 4 years of my life I had to wear pressure garments to help keep the scars down.
Only when I was 16 did I have to have my 3rd surgery to reconstruct a tightened band above my knee so I could bend it. I don’t remember initially being burnt as a baby or the pain, but I do remember the pain when I was 16 and It’s impossible to describe the level of pain.
I was lucky! I was blessed with very stretchy, elastic skin which was grafted in a spiral up my leg with gabs in between to allow me to grow and move. I played every sport you could think of. I even was able to be a goalie up to college hockey level. The more active I was the better the scars felt. The scars moved for me just like regular skin. It has only been these past few years of slowing down and not doing sports have my scars started to tighten.
To me I don’t know what it’s like to look “normal.” To me, my leg and arm are as normal as everyone else’s, they just look a bit different. Growing up I was called every mean name you can think of which hurt like hell but only helped me grow stronger. It wasn’t till just the past couple years that I’ve come to terms with my scars. They make me beautiful and unique. They tell a story of my hardships but show how strong they’ve made me. I strongly believe everything happens for a reason. Life is way too short to dwell on the horrible things that happen in it. So I try to live life to the fullest. Follow my dreams even if others think they’re silly. Take risks, try new things, and don’t wait for tomorrow because life changes in the blink of a eye.