Family · healing-over-pain · Hope · Relationship

Joe is a Superstar!

Joe Kinan was the most severely injured of the crowd who were burned in the fire at “The Station” nightclub in West Warwick, RI, on Feb. 20, 2003.

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Joe Kinan

The fire killed 100 people and injured more than 200.

For the past 16 years, Joe has been on a rugged journey of recovery, having had 148 surgeries.

Joe not only had to fight his way back from injuries that should have killed him, but he also developed a paralyzing fear of fire.

“I try to look at it and face up to it but it’s tough,” he told PEOPLE magazine: “Even if it’s just a candle with a one-inch flame, it’s like the size of a tree to me.”

Before the fire, Joe worked as much as possible—two or three jobs at a time.

He was also an amateur bodybuilder, spending hours working out and loving the “mental clarity that it brought.”

When the fire started, he immediately tried to get himself and his friend out the door.

She did not survive.

“I kept thinking about my daughter. I didn’t want her to not have a dad.”

Joe’s fitness as a bodybuilder helped him survive the fire, but his deeper source of strength came from his mental fitness.

At the 2007 World Burn Congress in Vancouver, Canada, Joe met Carrie Pratt, a fellow burn survivor, and they became close friends.

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Joe & Carrie Kinan

Three years later, Joe and Carrie began dating and eventually married in 2017.

In recent years, Joe received a hand transplant.

After lengthy rehab, he can now use a chef’s knife again (getting back to his love of cooking) and make his own cup of coffee in the morning.

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Kinan’s & me

Last summer Joe had several rejection episodes that caused him to lose all his fingernails and develop neuropathy in his hand.

Joe has learned a lot about the process of healing on his journey to recovery.

“Something I keep saying to myself is ‘’You end up a patient—now you have to be patient.”

Joe has started a real estate company flipping houses and likes to stay as physically fit as possible.

One more thing.

Another miracle.

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A baby girl.

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Who is almost 6!

dawn

(I acknowledge my debt to the “Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress” in the writing of this blog)

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Family · healing-over-pain · Hope · Relationship

The Gift of Family

A 12-year-old middle school boy, Fernando Castro, was killed as a fire ripped through his family’s home.

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Nano

To everyone who knew him, he was affectionately known as “Nano.” 

 

The night of the fire, Nano and his young siblings – three-year-old half-sister Esmeralda (“Esme”) and five-year-old half-brother Luis (Junior)– were home with a babysitter and her boyfriend, when a fire sparked inside their home.

The children’s mother, Juana Vasquez, was away driving her daughter back to college after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

The babysitter told the police that one of the children moved a ‘space heater’ into their bedroom.Screen Shot 2019-10-24 at 2.27.02 PM.png

 

She thought that was how the fire started.

 The fast-moving flames engulfed everyone inside.

The thick, black smoke hindered the Firefighters, but they worked through it and found Nano’s body inside the burned-out home.

Esme and Junior survived but suffered critical injuries that left them both hospitalized, with Esme suffering from burns over 40 percent of her body, while Junior has burns on over 70 percent of his body.

They were burned so badly that they had to be placed in medically induced comas.

Doctors have told the family that each child would need more than 80 operations between now and the age of 18 to fully recover from their severe injuries. 

Nano’s mourning mother, Juana, remembered how he would always turn to give her a big “thumbs up” every morning before getting on the school bus.

She clings to this image of her boy who seems to be saying here, with his thumbs up, “I’m OK, Mom, everything’s OK.”

I remember meeting Esme and Junior along with their aunts, at the Phoenix World Burn Conference, who are taking care of them now.

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JR, Esme, aunts and me

Let me tell you what’s really amazing that has come out of this tragedy.

It is the power of love in a larger family.

These 2 aunts are bringing deep emotional and physical healing to their niece and nephew. (I remember the nights after Ryan died when I had my two sisters, Dianne and Darby, and my parents surrounding us with their love).

Now, I look at this photograph and see that the same thing has happened for this little family.

They are encircled by a love that will never let them go.

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There’s a message for all of us in this.

In an age where we are losing a sense of the ‘nuclear family,’ it’s sad, isn’t it, that it often takes a tragedy to shatter the walls we’ve put between us and open our eyes to the best gift God has given us.

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The Gift of Family.

dawn

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Friendship · healing-over-pain · Hope · Relationship

Undercover Agents of Love

You’re not going to believe what happened to me last week in California!

I was attending the Phoenix World Burn Conference for burn survivors.

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Steve Joyner

There were about 800 of us.   

I say ‘us’ because I’m a burn survivor too, along with my husband and son, Tyler, who was a baby when we had the car accident.

It was that car fire that changed our lives completely because we lost our 7-year-old son, Ryan, in the fire. 

About the conference…I had come here with an agenda.

Like sharing Ryan’s Burn Foundation with my  ‘burn-survivor Tribe.’

My peeps.

Let me tell you about something that happened every day of the conference and it was pretty scary.

You know the term ‘Open-mic,’ right? We could volunteer to stand-up in front of more than 300 people and tell our story.

 

It was raw.

The wounds became fresh again, but this time in a room without judgment.

Everybody was just Honest-to-God.

Our only currency was the truth… and trust.

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Junior, Esme and 2 aunts

I could tell you about Esme and Junior(90% burned) who lost their 12-year-old big brother in a house fire. 

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Sam “no-hands bandit”

Or, I could tell you about Sam, the “no-hands bandit,”  who was electrocuted by so much voltage that it fried both his hands off. 

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Joe, Carrie and I

I could tell you about Joe.

He was in the middle of a nightclub fire that killed his girlfriend and 99 other people who were just dancing to the music and the next thing they knew they were on fire. 

Wait!

You know what I’m going to do?

I’m going to introduce you to these heroes in my next few blogs. One-at-a-time.

You must meet these Undercover Agents of Love.

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me, Jason, Sam, Sarah and Billy(worm)

Come open-hearted and ready to trust.

I guess it always comes down to a matter of trust, doesn’t it?

dawn

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Faith · healing-over-pain · Hope · Relationship

“All I did was pray in the ambulance.”

I’m going to tell you a story, but the star of our story is way bigger than a simple story.

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Jadah at Camp Conquest ’18

She’s a capital “S” Story!

Jadah is the girl, and she is God’s ‘S’tory!

The secret word here is one of the best words ever:  MIRACLE!

Jadah was burned over much of her body.

She and her cousins woke up early and went out back to re-light the bonfire of the night before.

One of her cousins opened a can of gas to help the fire along.

Suddenly, the fire backed-up into the can, he dropped it and it exploded on Jadah!

She ran into the house on fire and somebody called 911.

The hospital was 45 miles away, and it took that long for the ambulance to arrive.

Jadah sat her burning body down in a chair to wait.

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Jadah & Cpt. Cheeney Catching Courage ’18

There was so much pain she began to think she wouldn’t make it.

“All I did was to pray in the ambulance,” she told me.

Jadah said, ”It was so rough fighting in the hospital.

All the medicine they shot in me made me feel really weird and not myself.

I remember the pain.

Nothing could reach it.

It was all over me, and it was so horrible and so hard!

But it also really made me fight.

And even while I was fighting I realized God was busy working on me, too, inside and out!”

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Spoiler alert! Here comes the MIRACLE!

“I was miracle-healed!” (I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!)

She began to cry and said it again: “I was miracle-healed. God took most of my scars away!

God was giving me a second chance.”

Finally, she said, “I want to thank the firefighters, the paramedics, and the police officers.

They are all heroes!

My dad is a firefighter, and I know it hurt him almost as much as me!”

There was so much Courage sitting across from me.

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Jadah’s new friend  Catching Courage ’18

But more than anything, her deep gratitude.

dawn

#catchingcourage #ryanshines

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Encouragement · Hope · Relationship

New Kids in Town

There’s a new breed of “hero” in the country.

I’m pretty sure you’ve seen a few but you didn’t know what you were looking for.

Wait.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

First, I want to talk about the heroes that have flown in and out of your life.USA womens soccer 2019

Think back to Superman, or George Lucas, astronauts or police officers?

How ’bout our World Champion USA soccer team?   

So who and what is this new breed of heroes I’m talking about?

These heroes are “Pediatric Burn Survivors”!

They survived the fire that was consuming them and they are surviving the emotional handicap of growing up scared.  

But how are these ‘child burn survivors’ heroes?

For one thing,  most face multiple surgeries, over multiple years since every growth spurt requires “skin-release’ surgery so they can keep growing. 

Next, they take their scars to school with them and are then ridiculed.

Many are bullied or laughed at.

One child I know was tagged with  a new name–“Freddy Kruger.”

I want you to take that in and feel the shame that lingers. (And we thought the sky was falling when we had a ‘zit’ on our forehead.) 

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Catching Courage ’19 Pediatric Burn Survivors

These young burn survivors are heroes because daily they walk into school never knowing who would hurt them with words or everything going on behind their back.

Think about the everyday insecurities of ‘growing up’, especially in puberty.

Then, on top of their fears, add physical deformities.

Be mindful that most of their peers will never understand. Not even me–an adult burn survivor–even I don’t understand.

It’s all so unfair.

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CC ’19-Brody and Kaleigh
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CC ’19–Alex
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CC ’19–Lovely
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CC ’19–Future Firefighter Brantson

These kids are the new breed of “heroes.”

dawn

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Encouragement · Hope · Relationship

Who rescues the rescuers?

How does Ryan Shines help support our Firefighters?

We’re building a community at Ryan Shines that recognizes that Firefighters are stronger when they face their daily internal reality together and head-on.

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We want this community of trust to be available to every Career&Volunteer&Retired Firefighter in America.

We want to show them that Firefighters don’t ever have to live or die alone.

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So we will join their band of brothers and sisters from across the state to form a support network for the mental and physical health of their fellow Firefighters by providing trained assistance through a  “Firefighter Peer Support” Team.

Let me tell you the story about a Fire Chief in Alabama. His name is Mark Sealy and he oversees 24 fire stations in Mobile.

mark sealy

His best friend, a fellow Firefighter, suffered and died from PTSD.

All he knew was to self-medicate.

That’s the day when the Chief really ‘got it.’

His friend had survived every emergency that Firefighters face but his ‘internal Civil War’ took him out.

So, Mark not only knows everything first hand about firefighting but he has also been at the center of personal tragedy himself.

And he’s so open and eager that our common dream of ‘Peer Support’ take root and grow.

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In other words,  we ‘drank the kool-aid.’

I wish I could clone him and send him to every fire station in the country.

This is what we are developing in our own circle of influence.

We have created our first of many statewide Support Teams called “Alabama Firefighter Peer Support” at Ryan Shines.

Now, I am not fluent in ‘Firefighter,’ but I do understand personal trauma and the aftermath (PTSD), and the importance of finding friends you can trust.

You’ll find men and women with whom you can speak in a kind of  ‘shorthand’ because they intimately know the words and the feelings that have been burned into their brain since their first fire. 

Ryan
Ryan

Every day I wish Ryan was here. But when I look at all we’re doing together, he is no less than the engine driving us, and his is the Shining that lights our way.

 

dawn

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Friendship · Relationship

Giving their lives

Can you imagine every time you go off to work you’re putting yourself in harm’s way?

(And here I am afraid of roaches.) 

Having met hundreds of Firefighters, every time I watch them work together, I am stunned by their compassionate Souls.

firefighting group

 

And their instinct to rescue, anyone or anything that is in danger.

It’s in their DNA. These remarkable people are a breed apart.

A blind man can see that.

So, let me ask you, “Would you consider running into fires for a living?” They do. Everyday.

I’m not saying they’re gods.

They are human beings like us.

But it’s their passion that sets them apart. It is their curse and their blessing.

They live between a rock and a soft place. 

Trust me, I know what I’m talking about here.

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I live in the South. In Alabama.

Can you believe that we’re ranked #2 in Firefighter suicide over work-related deaths in our country? And it’s prevalent nationwide. 

In the face of all this, I feel ashamed for not observing that these quiet heroes, imprisoned by workplace heartache and trauma, want to end their lives.

Why don’t they just ask for help? Because…

It’s not in their job description. Their job is to save others, not themselves.

Which means that it’s our job to support those who risk it all to rescue others.  

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Next week, I’d like to talk about how Ryan Shines offers support.

dawn

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