Lionel and Joanna Crowther: Getting Through the Fire

Severely injured while battling a house fire in February 2007 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Lionel Crowther was among 4 of the 6 firefighters trapped by a flashover, that made it out of the blaze alive.

Lionel and his wife, Joanna, were the featured speakers at today’s general session.  Their discussion  “Getting Through the Fire”, revealed their personal journey as a burn-injured firefighter and spouse, and the impact on the entire family.

A firefighter with the City of Winnipeg (Canada) Fire Department, Lionel was finally able to find the support he needed upon attending the Phoenix Society’s 2009 World Burn Congress in New York City.  He notes that he was looking for another firefighter at that point to ask “What did you do?”  By connecting with others in the firefighter community through the Phoenix Society, the healing started to come together.

Lionel and Joanna explained the journey from that initial “call” that forever changed their lives, to the different healing paths they each encountered, both as individuals and as a family.   Lionel discussed what they discovered as a participant with Phoenix Society’s peer support for firefighters. He stated, “we learned that every burn survivor is an individual, and every individual has to have their own path.”

Today’s general session attendees were able to gain insight as to the challenges of a burn survivor’s recovery experience, how that path is different for their significant other, and how burn injury impacts the dynamics of the  entire family.  The audience also learned the unique perspective of healing and support for burn-injured firefighters.  Lionel has been able to bring his own unique perspective to the Phoenix Society’s SOAR program, as he has been trained as a SOAR Peer Supporter for burn survivors and firefighter burn survivors.

“The Phoenix Society helped me realize I wasn’t a burn victim anymore and that I was a survivor. I became proud to be a survivor fire fighter, survivor husband, and survivor father.”

Since their recovery, Lionel, with Joanna’s support and guidance, has concentrated his studies and training on Fire Fighter Survival, in it’s many forms. He has been appointed as a Master Instructor with the International Association of Fire Fighters Fire Ground Survival Program, trainer for the Petzl EXO Escape System, and is the District Coordinator for the IAFF 13th District Burn Foundation Coordinator. Only through constant training and support, Lionel was able to return to the front line as an active firefighter.

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