Adventure with Engagement AWE · Family · Relationship

Celebrating Thanksgiving

As I look back over the past year, I am thankful for the joy that has unexpectedly found me in growing RyanShines (our pediatric burn survivors and firefighters foundation).

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Catching Courage Salt 2019

It was like a bounty of unlooked-for treasures.

I like to call it “A Year of Heroes with a Thousand Faces!”

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Montgomery Fire Dptmt & Ryan Shines

What’s made the year different for me is that I have found a way through the sizable barrier separating me and firefighters.

I mean, who understands firefighters except firefighters?

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Some favorite firefighters at RSA tower stair climb

But that was not what I was trying to do.

I was working hard to build “trust” between us so that RyanShines could make a positive difference in their lives.

This was my hope, and I’m seeing it grow at little and large fire stations. 

 

I am thankful for their generous open-heartedness, and their willingness to live in a world of death and life to rescue others.

I am thankful that every day and night they risk their lives for strangers. 

Bottom line…I am Thankful.

I am thankful for our pediatric burn survivors.

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Brantson, Cory and James   Catching Courage Salt ’19

I am thankful for the bond that we have forged.

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Lovely, Kaleigh and me

I am inspired by their raw courage, the way they carry themselves, and the way they let us carry them.

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Finally, I am thankful for you, dear readers, for the ways that you encourage us and keep us warm in your prayers.

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Lovely @catchingcourage salt ’19

Thank you for keeping us focused on our mission that  “no pediatric burn survivor be left behind and no firefighter be forgotten.”

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Catching Courage Salt ’19 kids

with love and gratitude,

dawn

 

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.

BS-Joe Kinan family

Who is almost 6!

dawn

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

BTW-(If this is something that you would like to support, please visit us at www.ryanshines.com or follow us on FB and IG @dawnraymondhirn)

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

BTW-(If this is something that you would like to support, please visit us at www.ryanshines.com or follow us on FB and IG @dawnraymondhirn)

Encouragement · healing-over-pain · Hope

“My accident gave me courage and determination”

“My name is Cody, I’m 18, and I just began my sophomore year in college.

Let me tell you about my accident.

Some people started a trash fire behind the old boathouse.cody argo 2

They poured boat fuel on it.

The fuel ignited with the flames and, suddenly, I was on fire!

I was three at the time, and I was burned over 70% of my body.

My biggest challenge was getting back to moving.

After the fire and 46 surgeries, I couldn’t move around.cody argo 4

I was just stiff and wanted to sit in one place and never move.

I don’t really ever think about my scars, they are a part of me and they’ve been there basically all my life.

Even when I was little I never let them hold me back, but it was hard not being able to do the stuff other kids were doing for a while and it made me jealous.

But it was that very jealousy showed me that, ‘’hey if I want to be like them I gotta work for it!’’

So I did.

When I look back, my accident was positive.

It made me work harder than others.

My accident gave me the courage and determination to do that!

If I could tell everybody what I’ve learned it’s this: ‘DON’T TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED, because in a second your life could change, and things will never be the same.”

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And today?

Cody isn’t letting anything stop him, especially his scars.

“There haven’t been any huge problems.

My burns haven’t slowed me down at all.

Half the time I forget about them.”

 Cody’s story of perseverance has made him a regional winner in the Bryant-Jordan Scholarship’s Achievement category, which honors Alabama high school athletes” who have overcome personal hardship to excel on and off the field.

He has earned a $2,500 scholarship.

We at Ryan Shines respect him so much that we gave him our first “Ryan Hirn Memorial Scholarship.

cody

“I don’t want people to look at their scars and be ashamed; I want them to hold their head up and let their scars shine bright.

Our scars are beautiful!

Everyone says pictures are worth a thousand words . . . well, I’m a firm believer that scars are worth at least a million!

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dawn
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

BTW-(If this is something that you would like to support, please visit us at www.ryanshines.com or follow us on FB and IG @dawnraymondhirn)

Family · Hope · Motherhood

Sing Happy Birthday today for Ryan!

I’m a mom who lost her oldest son in a car fire when he was 7-years-old. 

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Ryan ’94

One of the things I think back on is that I never wanted children in the first place.

I guess I could tell you that if we’d never had Ryan, we would never have lost Ryan.

I’ve thought plenty about that over the years.

Does it sound crazy to you?

Every time I think that way I always judge myself as a ‘failure-Mom.’

But I’m changing.

That dark thought has basically disappeared deep into my psychic basement. 

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Ryan at 4

 

Today is Ryan’s birthday.

He’d be 25.

He’d be out of college, and working somewhere in his own business, being his own boss.

Our little boy was very social from the start; he just naturally loved people. 

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Ryan, baby Tyler & Ron

And he cared about them, almost to a fault.

Here’s what I think: If Ryan could’ve had his dream job, it would have only one focus: out of the wealth he created he would be “Generous’’ professionally.

He would work so he could give away money to help others.

Of course, I’ve got a Ryan story for you.

It’s our lucky day! A gift to you from Ryan on his birthday today, October 3rd. 

(Story) Eighteen years ago…in fact, it was on our last night ever with Ryan, he was killed the next afternoon.

We went to a dinner party at a friend’s house that Friday night.

We came in and looked to see who all was there.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ryan walking toward our priest. They talked for a second and Ryan handed something to the priest.

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I later found out it was a five-dollar bill. 

Ryan said to Father Jerry: “Give this to the poor children.” 

I remembered our previous conversation in the car on the way over that night.

Ryan had told us he was still several dollars short of getting his Gameboy he’d been saving for.

That’s where the five dollars came from.

I’m crying as I write this.

In the past eighteen years, I believe with my whole heart that Ryan was created especially for me, and I was created for him, even if we’d only had a year together.

But we had seven! Did you hear what I said? We had SEVEN YEARS TOGETHER!

Happy Birthday, punkin!

I love you.

mom

Encouragement · Family · Hope · wounded healer

Seen through her baby’s eyes

I’m Dawn.

The mother in this story is me. Our little family was boxed-in by a fire in our car.

We skidded across the access road off the Interstate and rolled the car three times.

Three of us survived. My seven-year-old son, Ryan, was burned alive, to death.

I realized last night that I haven’t told you very much about our baby boy, Tyler, who was freed from the flames along with Ron, and me. (We three were burned over 25% of our bodies).

This was–no-contest–the worst experience of my life.

Everything in me died on a slab that day, but my breathing wouldn’t quit.

I only wanted one thing . . . to be with my Ry-Ry immediately.

About Tyler.

My 2-year-old gave me the best Gifts of my life. (He’s a sophomore at Auburn now).

He gave his gift every morning of every month of every year after “the accident.”

 

He saw me beyond his own pain. He saw beneath my scars.

He saw the heart of a mother who didn’t deserve to be called “mother” anymore.

For him, nothing had changed.

We were still Team Tyler!

And every morning he pushed my bedroom door open, he saw the one thing he needed most. Mommy-Me! I was all he needed.

I was haunted by my consummate failure at the ‘’scene,’’ Tyler wasn’t.

I was more than my scars.

That’s what he taught me again and again, and he hardly knew how to talk.

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Forget words he knew me ‘by heart.’

I was all-mother, not his ‘scarred’ mother.

I was the mother who knew just what he needed, and when.

He showed me I still had the Goods.

He never once bailed on me while I was bailing on myself every day.

How can a 2-year-old do that?

I think about the ”Little Prince” and what he said, “

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.

What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Tyler saw me rightly and I grew into his vision of me.

He took me every day by the hand into the kitchen for breakfast.

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Tyler

He led me to the window to show me, in a loving way, that Life goes on.

It didn’t matter to him if I was ready to see it or not. God only knows how saw my strength. God only knows how he knew me.

Tyler will always be God’s best Gift to me!

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me and tyler

dawn

BTW-(If this is something that you would like to support, please visit us at www.ryanshines.com or follow us on FB and IG @dawnraymondhirn)