Whether you have been a member of The Phoenix Society for years and are renewing your membership, or you are just discovering this wonderful organization, THANK YOU for your support. Your membership gift provides valuable resources to the burn community and gives the tools needed to overcome challenges a burn injury presents.
The following article by Amy Acton, Executive Director, is an excerpt from our Burn Support New, Issue I, 2013, and chronicles the tools one burn survivor used, and how she was empowered to overcome adversity.
As we celebrate our 35th year of service, I ask that you please take just a moment and reflect on your connection to the Phoenix Society and what it has meant in your life. Whether you are a survivor, family member, a donor, or one of our many partners, it is important for us all to stop and celebrate our success together.
With as far as we’ve come in the past 35 years, some might question why we don’t just revel in the accomplishments we’ve made and focus on maintaining what we’ve put into place. But the reality is that as far as we have come in the programming and support for long-term burn recovery, there is still much to do. Isolation, social challenges, and discrimination are just a few of the realities still faced by many families whose lives have been affected by a burn injury.
Lili, a burn survivor and long-time Phoenix Society member, sent us the following email after she had received a cruel letter regarding her appearance.
“I remember so clearly the first time that I attended WBC, I was a painfully shy and insecure young woman. So much was new and scary; facing people, talking to anybody, making eye contact, leaving the security of my house, but most of all, the most scariest and gargantuan challenge was living in a body I had not in my worst nightmares imagined that I would occupy.
I went to WBC at the invitation of my hero and mentor Barbara Kammerer-Quayle. During WBC I was elated, I felt happy, inspired and during those few days I felt comfortable with myself. All was good with me and the world at WBC. It was heart breaking to have to go back home, but I was immensely empowered that first time. I went back to WBC time and time again with the same positive effects as my first time there. WBC gave me the courage and determination to follow my dreams, come out of my shell and live my life as if nothing had even happened.
First I went back to school, then I got married and then I realized what I had always wanted since I was a wee little girl, to have a family. Everything I wanted to create in my life I did it, but not alone. The Phoenix Society’s WBC has been utterly one of the most important life lines I was given after surviving the fire, Barbara Quayle is one of the other and my children and my family and all of the wonderful people I have come across every time I have participated in the World Burn Congress.
Tonight after receiving a letter, I thought about the burn survivors I had met at WBC, the workshops, the peer support and I thought to myself if I had not had the support of the burn survivor community as a whole, I would have unraveled at the sight of the words in this letter. For a moment my knees buckled, my heart ached and felt the old need to retract from an ugly world, but in the same instant I came back to my senses and remembered that in the face of my reality, being a double amputee burn survivor, I have achieved much and overcome much and I credit you all with this inner strength. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for being there and providing the tools necessary for someone like me to withstand the harsh words that some people in their ignorance might say to me.”
As I read her email, initially I was frustrated and angry that Lili had been subjected to such rude and thoughtless insults about her appearance. As I re-read it a second time, I focused on her main message—that the Phoenix Society had helped to equip her with the tools she needed to live her life with greater confidence and a sense of community. She shared that without the peer support and knowledge gained through the Phoenix Society she would have “unraveled.” Instead she was buoyed by the inner strength and knowledge that she had the tools she needed to deal with the situation and a community of support behind her. This is the impact of our work together.
Lili has participated in our community for many years, has gone on to live a fulfilling life since her injury, and has raised three wonderful daughters. Her growth and courage has always impressed me and although she gives a great deal of credit to the Phoenix Society and our “community,” I know that she has worked very hard personally to grow from her experience. However, Lili’s message did remind me just how important our work is, and it shifted my focus forward to consider the many opportunities that lie ahead for us to make an even greater impact.
The belief of the Phoenix Society is that if we can provide life skills and a community of peer support to burn survivors and their families, they can return to the communities in which they live with confidence and never feel alone.
Lili’s story should energize all of us to remain focused on the future health of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors and ensure that more families have access to this community and the growing resources offered here. Each of us has a role to play in this community.
How can you help? By getting involved and helping us to sustain the current programs through volunteering, contributing financially to the organization if you can, and sharing within your community the good work that happens here.
Our collective efforts have made a difference. Just as Lili shared, we are providing the tools necessary to live life.
Our work is too important to stop now.
By: Amy Acton, RN, BSN, Executive Director