Our year-end giving campaign is in full swing and we invite you to make an immediate impact on the lives of burn survivors everywhere. We share with you the story of Caitlin, a young girl forever changed by the Phoenix Society Young Adult program.
by Jessica Irven
Caitlin Bazinet knows a thing or two about rising from the ashes and growing stronger through support and transformation.
In 2008, at the age of 17, Caitlin was burned in an automobile accident in her Maine hometown. She spent six months recovering at Shriner’s Hospital in Boston. Caitlin underwent numerous surgeries, along with physical, child life, and music therapies, etc. – all among the care she considered ‘out-of-this-world.’
“They were really good to me,” says Caitlin.
But going home was a stark change after all the support at the hospital. “It was really lonely after I didn’t have all those people (while at the hospital). Then when I came home I was like, ‘Oh my god, what am I going to do?”
She also faced social and emotional hurdles.Caitlin experienced a range of barriers, such as figuring out how she could enter buildings without ramps in a wheelchair, and later, on her prosthetic legs. “It was like mountain climbing at first,” she describes.
Having people look at her, sometimes even staring, was difficult. “People wouldn’t be mean but would wonder what happened. I didn’t know how to react,” she says. “If someone tried to approach me, I’d get frustrated. I would feel almost like it was a personal attack even though it was just that they were curious.
“I knew who I wanted to be but I wasn’t able to portray that to the outside world because I was so afraid of the reaction I would get or that other people might judge me.”
It was at the Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress that Caitlin was able to find ways to balance herself, her desires, and her own need for support. She came a long way from reluctantly agreeing to attend in 2010, showing up withdrawn and doubting, to open, eager, and ready to share her story in 2011.
“At World Burn Congress I met people who were in the same boat. It was a complete reality check. I’m not alone,” she recalls, adding that access to a supportive community of survivors helped her get back to living again.
“I’m really lucky with what I still have: my life and this amazing story I have to tell people. World Burn was probably the best thing that happened to me.”
During the 2011 Young Adult Workshop at World Burn Congress, Caitlin remembers a self-reflection exercise that stuck with her. “It opened my eyes about myself.”
Caitlin even extended her comfort zone to attend workshops, and the Phoenix Society’s programming rewarded her. “I am really, really glad I did. I learned that I could still feel normal, still human, and there are people out there who know exactly what you are going through. Call them up, you’ll hear ‘I know exactly what you’re talking about’ and they do. And it’s just amazing.”
Today, Caitlin is using her confidence, support system, and skills gained in in the Young Adult Workshop, now “living the life I’ve always wanted to live.”
She does many speaking engagements at schools, driving schools, even jails. Imagining Caitlin’s transformation without support is difficult. To her, the value of the Phoenix Society’s programming is “Indescribable.”
“World Burn Congress is the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me,” says Caitlin. “It is the biggest helping hand I think any burn survivor could have. World Burn Congress is a second chance at life.“