Encouragement · Friendship · healing-over-pain · Hope · Relationship

Flying without Fear

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I’m sitting here tonight thinking of the Asian artist who was commissioned by a Texan to paint a picture. When the picture was complete, over in the left corner of the canvas was the branch of a blossoming cherry tree, and a small bird was perched upon a branch. The whole rest of the painting was a vast white space. The Texan was very unhappy with the outcome. “Please fill up this canvas. That’s what I am paying you for!”

But the artist refused, saying, “Sir, if I do that, there will be no room for the bird to fly.”

In our rewarding work at RyanShines we welcome so many fragile little birds who have been grounded by their burns.

Each one is an original–a one-of-a-kind Child of God. Every pediatric burn survivor is sent to us without “operating instructions.”

We discover their unique needs by loving them, listening to them and by witnessing their innate instinct to spread their wings and fly.

Not one of them has lost their wings. No fire can touch the gift of wings they were born with.

It takes tender care and fierce love to help them grow. These are all normal little children no different than yours and mine.

We work with them and their parents to restore their dreams of flying without fear.

In the past year, we have introduced you to Jenna, Brantson, Cameron, Kaleigh, Louie, Jadah, Brody, Lucas, Lovely, Alex, LeDreshia and so many more of our burn children.

These brave girls and boys have shared their frighteningly sad stories to hundreds of strangers. They have endured unimaginable pain.

Many will undergo multiple surgeries that could continue throughout their childhood.

Every week we will paint their profiles in courage for you. As always, you will admire them and draw rich inspiration from them.

But every last one of us must take a step beyond admiration.

To be blunt, we cannot meet the deep needs of these special children without you.

As you invest your time and treasure in what you believe in, allow your personal vision to include the earthy and air-born mission of RyanShines.

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Decide now to join our team. 

Just ask me how!

dawn

www.ryanshines.com

https://www.instagram.com/ryanshinesburnfoundation/

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 · 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.

hot water burns

 

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

Encouragement · Faith · healing-over-pain · wounded healer

Rising from the ashes

“My name is Lisa Beckwith. I was burned On November 9, 2017.

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Lisa

It was a beautiful fall evening and my family and I were outside enjoying a nice fire in our fire pit.

After a while, my husband and teenage daughter and son went in for the night.

I loved the quiet privacy.

When I decided to turn-in for the night, I stood up out of my chair and stepped on the left corner of my robe and fell into the fire pit.

My chin hit the steel ring and my hands broke my fall in the hot coals.

With unexpected strength, I pushed myself out of the pit.

I ran to the bathroom, splashed cold water over my face and grabbed a towel.

I honestly didn’t think that I had been badly burned. When I looked in the mirror, I was horrified.

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My son and daughter heard the commotion and ran into the bathroom to see what was going on.

They were horrified, too, seeing skin hanging from my face and hands.

They called my husband, who was already asleep.

He came running and, in minutes, had me bandaged and on our way to the hospital.

Upon arriving, the hospital determined I needed to be at a facility that was highly skilled at treating burn victims.

So I was admitted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center and into the Burn Center.

 

I was burned badly on the right side of my face and both hands.bs-lisa 2

A good amount of hair was burned as well.

Ironically, the robe I was wearing that night ended-up saving the rest of my body.

They skin-grafted both hands.

Then, in a few months, I had a second graft surgery on my left hand.

I have some limitations to what I can do with my hands.

I always will, but I am grateful the limitations are minimal.

My scars are deep, but wearing compression gloves helps me do everyday tasks.

Overall, my healing was miraculous.

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What I didn’t expect was the strength it takes to heal emotionally.

But I have a strong faith and that’s the main reason why I’m making such progress in my healing process.

I certainly have my share of bad days.

I allow myself to have them, but I refuse to focus on them.

I encourage people to find the good that is in everything. 

And, trust me, I mean EVERYTHING.”

dawn

Encouragement · Friendship · Hope · Relationship

Kaleigh: opening like a rose

Nobody knows how it feels to be a child on fire except other burned children. 

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Though I wasn’t burned as a child, I understand that many pediatric burn survivors turn into turtles.

They start hiding for a good reason.

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Kaleigh

Public scarring.

One of Ryan Shines’ burn kids, Kaleigh, was burned in an electrical fire.

She was severely burned on her arms, stomach, and upper legs.

She tended to keep her head down, feeling great shame.

Humiliation tried to take her down.

But our “Catching Courage” events raised her up.

I want you to meet the new version of Kaleigh.

She has spent much of her young life trying to come to terms with her burns.

And she is.

Even though the pain in her eyes was obvious, now you can see something new being born in her.

Kaleigh found her Sparkle. 

Let me give you an example.

She met a fellow 13-year-old burn survivor named ‘Lovely,’ and they began a wonderful friendship.

Every time they get together at one of our Catching Courage Events, they are inseparable and the sparks fly.IMG_7001

Their ‘God-sparks’ shine like polished steel. 

Let me tell you what happened to these girls early this month. 

One of our firefighters had overheard Kaleigh and Lovely talking together about their dreams of the future(this was at our Catching Courage family weekend).

They were saying how they wish they could be models someday but knew it would be impossible because of their scars.Kaleigh caught CC

Our firefighter shared how sad he was when he heard these two 13-year-old girls talking about their dreams of the future and what is not possible anymore.

A friend of his, who happens to own a dress shop–Jo Wells in Montgomery–decided to step into the situation, and open her shop and her heart to them.

“I want those girls to model my clothes in my shop,” she said.

So, she arranged a photoshoot and called us at “Ryan Shines” to invite the girls to come model for her.

The word spread like a great party.

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Heroes of Montgomery, AL Fire & Rescue

Countless firefighters from Montgomery climbed on board with us and even brought their big red firetruck.

Suddenly, there was an influx of new friends we didn’t know we had!

What a celebration!

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Lovely, Kaleigh and me

 

We were celebrating Kaleigh and Lovely!

And the dreams they were dreaming were already beginning to blossom. 

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Don’t you just love that?!

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)