Faith · Hope

We have been here before

There are so many heroes, like our firefighters, who are taking intentional strides into this pandemic, and at great personal risk.

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I would say they are coming “out of the woodwork” to serve, but, truth be told, they’ve always been at the forefront during local and national crisis’s. “We simply cannot stay home with our families, like we are asking everyone to do.” 

“We’ve been here before. This is not our first walk around the block. We accept the challenge and we are, day-after-day, moving out into our nation’s neighborhoods!” 

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Post-9/11, firefighters answered the call in our first taste of biological terrorism with the anthrax scares. “White powder” calls became commonplace. Our identified, detected and mitigated hundreds of calls (both real and fictitious) without a single injury or fatality.

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“During this pandemic, our job necessarily requires us to enter unknown buildings, residences, and business retail establishments, and come in direct physical contact with the public,” said a Florida Fire Chief. 

Firefighters place a premium on being adequately prepared, equipped and attired for every type of call we respond to. Every single fire response carries the added risk of deadly virus transmission.

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“We need to increase the equipment necessary to protect ourselves as much as possible, so our healthy and resilient fire departments continue providing emergency services,” an Alabama firefighter said.

All over the nation firefighters are posting photos where they are holding signs saying: “I came to work for you, please stay home for me.”

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Here is their bottom line: “We are the fire service and we put our citizens first, as we’ve sworn that we will do. We will not back down.” 

We at RyanShines are deliberately moving in gratitude toward these fighting men and women by purchasing protective materials, and by giving encouragement.

Why not join with us in our creative responses to our first responders. Ask me how. 

dawn

(I am going to take a break from writing my blogpost every week. We’ve been at it for more than 3 years. Tyler has come home from Auburn during this chaos and our family is all together. They are my singular priority. I will return when the smoke clears. We, at RyanShines, will continue to abide with you in indestructible faith, hope and love).

Encouragement · Hope

from Re-learning to Walk to “Dancing with the Stars”

On April 5, 2003, J.R. Martinez, a 19-year-old infantryman with the 101st Airborne Division, jumped into the driver’s seat of a Humvee to lead an Army caravan into the city of Karbala. Suddenly, a landmine detonate beneath his feet.

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Fuel-fed flames seared his clothes, burned his skin and incinerated the dreams of this high school football star from Dalton, Georgia.

While he was trapped inside the truck, he thought: “This is where my life ends. Everything I wanted to do no longer exists.”

He first felt sharp pain on his face, then, nothing. The flames had destroyed every nerve ending.

“I honestly thought it would be better if I hadn’t survived the accident.”undefined

They placed him on a ventilator because of severe smoke damage to his lungs, and, then, began the excruciating ritual of removing dead, burned skin and surgically grafting healthy skin from unaffected areas of his body.

He sucked it up through more than 35 surgery procedures.

After all that, therapists put him through months of painful stretching exercises so he might once again lift his arms, straighten his elbows, open the fingers of his contracted hands, and turn his head from side to side. undefined

He had to re-learn to walk. He spent 2 1/2 years in and out of the hospital. “It was tough, it was painful, but because I did those things, because they pushed me to do those things, is why I am where I am today.”

After seeing his face for the first time, he fell into a deep depression, uncertain what his life could hold.

However, one day, after speaking with his mother, “I made a choice that I was going to get through every single day. And the answer would come to me, and it did.”

He visited another burn patient and realized that was helping him, too. He began making regular visits to many patients. “That,” he says, “is when J.R. Martinez was born.”

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He competed on “Dancing With the Stars,” and won.

As he raised his right arm and extended his left to clasp the hand of his partner Karina Smirnoff in an emotional salute to fallen servicemen and women, he symbolically reached out to fellow burn survivors, demonstrating with his scarred face and body that it’s possible to move beyond the dark days of doubt, despair and depression and reclaim a meaningful life.

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You can help burn survivors, too. Ask me how!

dawn

To support us, please visit us at www.ryanshines.com or follow us on FB and IG @ryanshinesburnfoundation)

Encouragement · healing-over-pain · Hope

Moving forward, one step at a time

“My name is Jenna. It was Memorial day, and my mom and dad were getting ready for a cookout. I was three-years-old at the time. undefined

Somehow the gas can in the garage got knocked over and leaked underneath the water heater. It started a flash fire.

Over 95% of my body was burned with 3rd and 4th degree burns.

My doctors and nurses did not expect me to make it through the night, but I survived.

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It’s hard to believe it has been 15 years and 70 surgeries later. Through it all, my parents told me how hard I fought, and how I stayed strong and kept coming back! I am doing most everything I dreamed in my life.”

Jenna is like any other teenage girl, playing sports, going to prom, and having fun. From those first few wobbly steps she took after getting out of the Shriner Burn hospital, to her fancy footwork on the soccer field, Jenna is a walking and running miracle.

“Its been a real and scary roller coaster! I’ve had ups and downs. My focus is on what’s ahead for me as I get older.”

Jenna is taking almost everything with an openhearted attitude of gratitude, and so is her family; but she says what keeps her going are the friends she’s made along the way.

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“I’ve gotten used to the stares, because I know it’s what’s on the inside that counts. But at our burn camps, I feel completely ‘normal.’ It’s like we are not so burned. We’re our own society pretty much.”

“I’d like to start a burn camp of my own in parts of the world that may not have one. That way I can motivate and inspire other burn survivors just like me!”

There’s something about living in a state of of gratitude, counting our blessings one by one.

The trick is to take those blessings and bless others like Jenna.

If you need some direction in how to help, feel free to contact me thru ryanshines.com.

dawn

Encouragement · healing-over-pain · Hope

“All we could see were his eyes”

It started out as the perfect summer trip.

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Derek and Amanda

High-altitude training camp including hiking, running, cycling, and fishing in mountainous Mammoth California!

Derek, his girlfriend Amanda Post, high school friends Natalie Nield and Drew Delis, and athletic trainer John Adams made the trip and were returning home in an SUV when the accident occurred.

The driver drifted out of his lane and onto the shoulder, causing the SUV to flip, roll, and skid to a stop on its side, in the path of oncoming traffic.

Another van also heading to Mammoth athletic camp, carrying 12 cross-country runners and a coach, crashed into the SUV.  Then, a sedan slammed into the pileup.

The SUV burst into flames.

In all, 15 people were injured and four were killed (his girlfriend and his best friends).

Derek said that he can only remember fragments of the scene, but he does remember telling someone: “Please, please call my dad and tell him we had an accident.’’

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Doctors at Grossman burn center said his case is one of the worst they’d ever seen, and estimated his chances of survival at less than 1%.

The burns penetrated his muscles, kidneys, liver and lungs – all were on the verge of shutting down.

Derek’s life for the next eleven months was an unthinkable nightmare. The kind that breaks peoples’ hearts.

The 19-year-old high school student had burns to over 85% of his body.

When his father saw him in the hospital, he said, “All we could see were his eyes and one toe.’ He told his sons’ doctors: “Just get him to where he’s awake. And I know he’ll take care of the rest.”

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After more than a year in the hospital and 42 surgeries later, he was able to come home.

He had beaten the odds. His strength and will to live far exceeded the doctor’s expectations.

His father says, “Derek has proven every time that he was stronger than his fear, that each step was another forward step in a positive direction.”

Derek’s survival story is inspiring, but even more than inspiring is his determination to continue living his life the way he always lived it, uninhibited by his annoying scars.

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“I know that logically I shouldn’t be here and I shouldn’t be here,” the 20-year-old Encinitas resident said.

“And it’s kind of hard for me to come to grips with that, but I just have to be thankful every day.”

When I heard about Derek I was hit by a wave of sadness.

Then, I thought about my family. We are so blessed, and gratitude began to fill my heart.

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Derek today

I found myself wondering how I could turn my feelings into action.

I’ve decided to give a financial gift to honor Derek and to help children like him recover.

What can you do?

If you need any suggestions on how to help, contact us at www.ryanshines.com.

dawn

(Thanx to Burn Survivor Resource Community for information).

Encouragement · Faith · Hope

Aaron: less than 10% chance of Survival

Aaron’s life was 24 days old, when his biological father submerged him in scalding water, burning over 45% of his small body.

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The doctors gave him less than a 10% chance of surviving.

Aaron was placed into a medically induced coma and underwent skin grafting, where they removed skin from his hip and used it to reconstruct his right ear.

Returning home after 4 months in the hospital, Aaron wore tight, full-body compression garments which caused him pain and severe discomfort.

He had a hard time sleeping, keeping food down, as he struggled to grow.

The doctors prepared his mother for the years of hard work ahead including a limited range of motion, significant scarring, and numerous surgeries.

With the skills and talents of medical professionals and overwhelming love from his family, Aaron survived and thrived.

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After a traumatic injury, there are many difficult questions for a young man to understand. 

Fortunately, Aaron enjoyed many visits to burn camp, where he learned that there were other children who had also suffered burns; allowing him to understand that he was not facing his challenges alone.

Today, at age 16, Aaron has grown into a happy, healthy young man who is realizing that he can do and become whatever he chooses.

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Aaron today

He is still an active member of the Burn Institute family and now helps others facing the same challenges he once did. 

He believes all people have challenges and that his burns are part of his life, but not something that defines him.

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

Faith · healing-over-pain · Hope · Motherhood

Hospital staff=family

“I was outside shoveling dirt, while my husband was operating the tractor. Our young daughter Ashlynn was inside.

 

Suddenly we heard a very loud BOOM, and, then, screams coming from inside the house.

Ashlynn came running to us on fire from the waist up.

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Her long brown hair was completely fried.

She was burned on her head, face, ears, hands, and legs.

Her body was cut from the shards of glass (the shower door had exploded).

 

She kept repeating, “I’m sorry momma, I thought it was a candle.”

It was a firecracker that sizzled for a second and caught fire.

She tried to put out the fire with a towel and the towel burst into flames. 

The fire had spread to my side of the vanity where there were a few aerosol cans

The explosion shattered the shower door.

We grabbed her up and drove her to our local ER. 

She was life-flighted from our hometown of Tahlequah, Oklahoma to the closest city where they removed a piece of glass the size of a pea from her eye.

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Then we were flown to Galveston to the Shriner’s Burns Hospital for Children. 

 

We were in that hospital for a month.

She is so courageous.

We continued to return there every few months for check-ups and it was always the same–like going home.

Hospital staff = family.

Now, her hair is growing back, she is enjoying school, and back to riding her dirt bike.

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She is partially blind in one eye, but she has learned to compensate.

She is doing better with the stares and questions.

She has come a long way and has been so strong and resilient. 

We thank God every day we still have ‘our little Miracle’ in our lives.

Much love to everyone surviving a burn injury.

I believe it does get better.

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Ashlynn & me

 

We hold onto each other as we travel our common journeys.” Ashlynn’s mom

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)

 

Encouragement · healing-over-pain · Hope

My Race continues…

At 16-years-old, I had hiked out to a very remote beach on Vancouver Island with six of my friends including my brother.

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We got very drunk.

I decided to stay awake and drink the leftovers by the beach fire until I fell into an alcohol-fueled sleep.

I woke to searing pain down my left arm.

I felt my face, which was smooth as plastic, and my eyelids were burned shut. Somehow I’d rolled into the fire and woke up with 14% full-thickness burns mainly to my face and along my left arm.

I tried to make enough noise to wake the others, but I think I was the only one who could hear me.

I couldn’t see anything with my eyelids burned shut.

I finally pried my left eyelid open a fraction with both hands. Now I knew the general direction of the other guys.

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My brother Rob heard my crying and climbed out of his tent.

When he saw me–my blackened face and the extensive body damage caused by the fire–he lost it.

Two friends stayed with me, while the two guys ran 4 miles for help.

Several hours after my accident a small helicopter arrived!

The flight team strapped me onto a stretcher that was attached to the bottom of the small helicopter that buzzed me back to Bamfield Hospital. 

I had lost the use of my right eye and I needed a new nose, and God knows what else. I had endless variations of donor sites.

It was amazing how much skin you go through!

I was discharged from the burn unit after 115 days and nights.

Joe-Schuckel-2Slowly but surely I got stronger, but I had a long way to go.

I went under for many more surgeries (14+) over the next three years.

I wore a plastic mask for quite some time. I got my new nose, and I got titanium implants for a prosthetic eye and ear and wore “pressure garments” for years. 

While going through the endless surgeries I started running to get stronger.

I ran the Times Colonist 10k against my doctor’s advice with 6000 other folks.BS-Joe Schuckel1

I was hooked! A marathon came next. 

Currently, I have run 15 marathons.

I married my girlfriend Jane, and we have a six-acre farm in scenic Cobble Hill, BC. with horses that Jane manages, plus chickens and pigs.

Our “Bed and Breakfast” Hillcrest Farm is busy in the summer and we both love to welcome guests to these wonderful surroundings.

 And as a professional chef, I currently work full time as a cook in Victoria at a Complex Care facility.

My race continues to include mountain biking, marathons and connection with the burn community to offer support when needed.

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Hillcrest Farm Bed & Breakfast

 

That’s my story of a happy boy and a strong man.

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)