HOW WE CAN HELP AFFECTED PEOPLE TO COPE WITH THIS MENTAL LOAD?
Marc was 41 when all has happened. He was successful, charming and great man who had planned his wedding with Anne, looking forward to the day of being her husband. Born in Michigan, grown up in North Caroline and falling in love in Illinois, that was the timeline of Marc´s life. He has never disappointed anyone but always brought pure joy and good vibes, wherever he was going.
On that September´s night, everything has been changed but above all, Marc has been changed, physically and psychically. He has experienced the burn accident, fighting to survive, due to the gas explosion in his house. When the paramedic and firefighters found Marc, he was with 75% of burn injury, staying alive because of bit of luck.
The burn injury is an accident that includes many factors of risks and many sources. It doesn’t mean only being exposed to the fire but to any kind of mechanism that is capable to cause the burn. It is very important to make category and distinct among the following indicators: friction, radiation, chemical, electrical and thermal. The majority of burn injuries are caused by thermal mechanism that means direct contact with flame or super-heated materials. That is exactly what Marc survived in spite of fact that nobody had hope he will win.
After months of advanced hospital treatment of his even, more advanced burn injuries, Marc faced up, maybe for the first time, with the big question about his life after hospital accommodation. What about job, wedding and friends? What about playing rugby and jogging with his dog across Chicago River? What about life after death? Is there a difference now? So many questions and zero answers made Marc sleepless in Chicago one year ago.
Now, Marc is at home but far away from busy Chicago and loud people. Marc lives in Original Northwood, in Baltimore, Maryland. After the famous lawsuit against the company that has failed to check the gas installation in his old house, Marc succeed to get some money but there is no amount of money that could give his old life back. It was just a temporary comfort, the ticket to certain future, without fear about being dumped on the street, forgotten and condemned by all. Marc now is so much more than Marc we knew. This Marc is the humanity itself, the single homo sapiens challenged with pain, tears, blood, tragedy and cruelty. His face and his body are covered with burn scars but his soul is beaten and bitten by human dark hearts.
Ever since he left hospital, his boss laid him off. It was a cheap excuse. One prominent lawyer company needs active and profitable employers. Yes, Marc was great in his profession but it was in the past. Now, there is only a memory on his success and the company must live and go on. No empathy. No hand of support. Nothing for everything. Marc was not surprised; he expected that snake of greed knocking on his door. What Marc has not expected is Anne´s change of behavior and her last, strong good bye. That killing smile and indifferent green eyes that accept the redirection of destiny and all crafted common dreams. They lost themselves on the road of trust. Marc was there alone, abounded and betrayed. Anne wanted something else for her life, happiness and thrilling instead of daily reminder that life could be changed at one second.
Marc learnt to live without Anne, job and far away from Chicago. In those months, he has constantly gravitated towards abyss of empty expectations and fear from future. He doubted if was the right thing for him to fight to stay alive or it was just a long nightmare and he hoped he would wake up soon enough. Suddenly, the life has gave him a hand again and he has found his own universe of small positive things that could save his soul. Marc is not sure how all has happened and honest to be, he does not want to think of it. He knew that he must survive and he must see and be happy about sunshine again. His mission on the Earth is still not accomplished and the best is yet to come. Marc decided to take care of his life joy and to break up with sadness. At the end of day, he is a fighter, lion and not afraid kitten under the storm. As a lawyer, he had professional advantage to process his case on the higher level and to make the bad people to pay for their mistakes. That helped him to invest his money into the new house in sleepy Maryland, that Marc turned into charming little home of new beginning. His old dog and loyal friend, Jimmy, the German Sheppard, followed him on that journey, as always, showing unconditional love that only dogs have in their DNA. Marc did not stop doing jogging but he provided himself a perfect little fitness studio in his new residence, trying to get back his body strength and related self-confidence. Besides reading, walking in nature, he started learning Spanish language and grounded his law firm, specialized in giving legal help to the people affected with burn injuries, caused by the third person. It seemed that Marc found his own pattern, reason and drives for waking up and greeting new day. Not everyone with burn injury is strong and brave like Marc, not everyone can do it, without falling down even more exhausted and tired from all. Not everyone is Marc and should not be like Marc. Each one is special and deserves care and support, like Marc did too but was enough lucky to survive, without others.
What we can do with people who experienced severe burn injuries and who are facing with new adaption to the society and its demands? We can do a lot even if we are not sure how. It is about hearing, seeing and feeling others, one pain and embracing it like own one. That is called empathy and that is the most valuable human characteristics nowadays, when the world is egocentric and busy for tragedies. Those people don’t need you to feel sad about them or to feel sorry about them….they need you to treat them like everything is normal, like it was before, to not give up being there for them. Sometimes you may feel discomfort, staring at their scars, at their portray of human majesty and capability to get out the fire, like a Fenix bird and rise again. You can help so much, trying to give them the portion of life they used to have, before flame has taken over the rules. You can laugh with them, sing and drink iced wine. You can be yourself and let them being who they used to be, before society convinced them they are not anymore handsome, beautiful or successful as they have been before. It is the big life present. There is no global standard of beauty but many faked convictions of mass that something is perfect and something else is not. You should help those people to see their beauty again and above all, their strength. The fire for living that was inside them, defeated the fire around them and showed us the unbreakable human spirit. The scar face is a pride and not something to feel bad to look at. Embrace those people because they embraced the life, light and the new start, on the ground full of ashes.
2 thoughts on “THE BURN INJURY: THE LIFE BEFORE AND AFTER”
Thank you for your compassionate article, Sarah !
This is so sad. To no fault of their own, some people find themselves in that situation. It devolves upon society to make the victims feel welcome and at home. Sadly, in today’s world,
so many people are superficial and self-centered and, as such, are oblivious to the pain and suffering of the less fortunate.
Let’s hope for a better world and a better tomorrow !
Sarah’s invaluable and highly-relative article reminded me of Joseph Merrick (1862-1890): and Englishman with extreme physiological deformities (known as ‘The Elephant Man’)…
The precise progenitors of his deformities remains unclear: in 1986, it was conjectured that he had Proteus syndrome, but DNA tests in 2003 were inconclusive.
He was born a healthy and normal child, but the first symptoms appeared around age five. In addition to his deformities, at some point during his childhood, he suffered a fall and damaged his left hip: this injury became infected and left him lame, permanently.
As he became more deformed, other children and adults ridiculed him: ‘I was taunted and sneered at, so that I would not go home to my meals, and used to stay in the streets with a hungry belly rather than return for anything to eat. What few half-meals I did have, I was taunted with the remark “That is more than you have earned!”’
This was Victorian England, and life was cruel, barbaric and savage for most Working Class subjects, and Joseph Merrick endured great suffering in a heartless ‘Christian’ country.
Joseph Merrick left school aged 13, which was usual for the time. His home-life was now a perfect misery, and neither his father nor his stepmother demonstrated affection towards him. He ran away two or three times, but was brought back by his father each time. At 13, he found work rolling cigars in a factory, but after three years, his right hand deformity had worsened and he no longer had the dexterity required for the job. Now unemployed, he spent his days wandering the streets, looking for work and avoiding his stepmother’s taunts.
Joseph Merrick was becoming a greater financial burden on his family, and his father secured him a hawker’s licence, which enabled him to earn money selling items from the haberdashery shop, door to door. This endeavour was unsuccessful, since Joseph Merrick’s facial deformities rendered his speech increasingly-unintelligible and prospective customers reacted with horror to his physical appearance: housewives refused to open doors for him and now people not only stared at him, but followed him out of morbid curiosity. He failed to make enough money as a hawker to support himself. On returning home one day in 1877, he was severely beaten by his father and he left home for good…
His life was overwhelming oppressive and wretched, but he possessed a beautiful mind: interested in Science, architecture, medicine, literature, etc., he found refuge in his mind…