Encouragement · healing-over-pain

“This incident won’t stop me from being a firefighter”

  A South Dakota newspaper tells the story of firefighter Austin Whitney, 23, who is in the long and painful process of recovering from second and third burns over his body after the Coal Canyon wildfire.
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Austin was trapped in the massive fire along with four fellow firefighters.
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“What’s helping his recovery most,” his father said, “is the focused power of his mind.

His spirits are up and over the moon! Five days into his recovery Austin told me that this incident won’t stop him from being a firefighter. ”

“It was very hard for the family to wrap their hearts around the awful news of their son’s burning.

“A lot of emotions were streaming through my head at the time,” Robert said.

“We didn’t know how bad it was or what was going on, and it turned everything topsy- turvy. Everyone was frantic.”

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Austin is following in the firefighting footsteps of his father, grandfather, aunts, and uncles.

His first season was with the “South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division,” a state firefighting agency.

But Austin had started fighting fires when he turned 18, joining the “Pringle Volunteer Fire Department”–the same department as his father and grandfather.

Then, he joined the “Cascade Volunteer Fire Department” the following year, and is co-captain now.

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“His infusion of courage is growing in so many of us,” said Austin’s father.

“I am grateful that our lives would converge this way. What a wonderful world!”

(Thank you to Larry Kramer for his contribution to this blog).

dawn

Faith · Family · healing-over-pain · Hope · Motherhood

“Girl, you’ve gotta carry that weight a long time!”

This is the story of a mother and son.

It is a hard-luck love story between Monica and her ten-year-old, Lucas.

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Lucas

The whole family was gathered around the table for Christmas dinner.

Each person had their own pan over a fondue burner.

What happened was the fuel was running low, so Lucas’ grandmother got up to go into the kitchen to refill the gas.

When she removed the lid to pour more fuel into the pan, a flame shot across and consumed Lucas from his face down to his belly button.

“I was still at the table,” Monica said, “and had no idea that Lucas was burning.

The kitchen caught fire and when I turned, all I could see was my little boy on fire.

I froze.

His dad ripped his clothes off, put out the fire, carried Lucas to the car, and we raced to the hospital.

I was amazingly calm on the outside but my heart was breaking.”

Like always, Christmas is here again, and Monica has felt it slithering toward her since September.

Talk about carrying so much weight for such a long time!

Every year is always heavy.

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It breaks the most resilient spirit.

 

 

Lucas has had nine surgeries, with more to come.

Monica was in there for the first one and it was unbearable.

Whenever Lucas is in the hospital he does the same thing.

He shines a light of reassurance to mom and lets her know he’s “doing well.”

He continually gives her the gift of his own strength so she won’t be afraid.

In the past two months, Monica has found the courage to say to herself: “THIS IS HARD!”

But she knew that things have been so hard for Lucas, that she didn’t deserve to admit that things were hard for her, too.

Her vulnerability is unfolding, and she has discovered a deeper love than she’s ever known.

For Lucas.Bs-Lucas2

Lucas is fourteen now and in high school.

His faith in God is contagious.

He is so bright in his classes.

He’s on the wrestling team.

Last week he won Gold in the Elite division.

He removes his shirt bearing the scars on his chest, and he is not the least bit self-conscious.

They are his medals, too.

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Mom & son(Monica & Lucas)

 

dawn

healing-over-pain · Relationship

E Pluribus Unum (Out of the Many, One”)

This is the Tenth Anniversary of the shooting death of Pelham Police Officer Philip Davis.

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They tell me that there is one agency that understands the pain and that is the “Pelham Police Department.”

And we are grateful for our police officers and the ways they protect and serve our communities.

But there is more to this Anniversary Day than the tragic death of Officer Davis on I-65.

The call that came in over the wire was two dreaded words: “OFFICER DOWN!”

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The Pelham Fire Department also heard the call, and jumped in their truck and sped to the scene.

With them was Wes Green, a firefighter who had 15+years experience as a paramedic.   

The Firefighters arrived first at the scene and saw Officer Davis stretched out across the shoulder of the Interstate, bleeding profusely.

Officer Green discovered the entry point of the bullet that killed Officer Davis.

A trucker pulled over and knelt down to pray.

The Pelham firefighters stayed by Officer Davis until police cars began to gather.

When the police arrived, both departments began to work together as One.

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So, the other side of this Day of Remembering is the inspiration shown by the firefighters and the police officers as they worked together. 

The old motto of America adopted by the Founding Fathers is E Pluribus Unum.

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We honor this band of brothers, and what happened ten years ago in Pelham on I-65 . . .  “out of the many, one!” 

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 @ryanshinesburnfoundation

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

 

healing-over-pain · Hope

GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!

Meet Brad, a burn-surviving firefighter, and our hero.

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Brad

He has been with the Birmingham Fire Department for 15 years. 

In November 2011, the Company was sitting around the Fire Station when the call came.

“It was a one-story fire in the back-right section of the house.

We were first at the scene.

The fire had blown-out the back windows.

The front door was locked so we forced it.

We were blinded by the soupy black smoke.

We couldn’t see any fire so we pushed on.

We were hit in the face by a severe change in temperature.ff-brad 4

 

The only thing stronger than the smoke was our Officer screaming: ‘GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!’

Then, everything went from black to bright orange.”

Brad had lost his bearings and he was on fire!

His pain multiplied to the nth degree!

He decided if he was going to get out, he’d have to stand-up and walk-out.

Suddenly, he saw a bright burning orange force and knew it was a window.

“I shattered it with my arm.”

When he rolled out into the front yard and still-on-fire, two brother-firefighters extinguished him.

Brad was transported to the Burn Center, where he was treated for weeks for his 25% burns, surgeries, and rehab.Screen Shot 2019-11-20 at 1.48.07 PM

I’ve told you everything he told me, but I haven’t come to the point. 

The real message is this: Brad went back!

Knowing what could happen again, Brad re-established himself in the line of fire.

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I suppose it’s a bit like when your house on the banks of the river floods, and you respond by rebuilding on the same land because it is where you were planted.

It is bedrock.

Your touchstone!

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Brad-Catching Courage ’18

What we’re still seeing from Brad is a Primal Courage written across his heart in indelible ink!

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 @ryanshinesburnfoundation)

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)

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)