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).

Family · healing-over-pain · Hope

We are all together

(This is the speech I’m giving tonight at our first annual Gala. It’s the next best thing to being there.)

It’s best to begin with the children–our burn survivors. I hope you have had some time to see and engage our burn children.

They are our galaxy of bright stars.

Have you heard their stories? Many of our burn-kids had never told their story before, to anyone. Some of the stories seemed impossible to be built into words. But we knew the words were there and by listening attentively in a safe harbor of non-judgmental love, the stories began to surface at an event that we call “Catching Courage.”

Their courage was tangible though it’s hard to speak when your spirit has been broken.  statue grieving parents

Our family has a story and it was very hard to tell even to ourselves at home. 

Here’s our story.

It was a typical family Sat. afternoon going from a swimming meet to a soccer match.

We were on the expressway when our tire detreaded and the car started flipping 3/4 times.

There were 4 of us in the car–Ryan (7), Tyler (2), Ron and me.

The car burst into flames. Ryan and I caught fire first. And then it spread thru the car.

We were all burning. Ron was able to reach Tyler and pull him out of the fire. But Ryan was stuck in his seat belt and there was no way to pull him free before the fire took him.

Ron, Tyler and I were flown 600 miles away and a quarter of our bodies were burned.

Even though we know we’ll never get over this, we’re still here and our family is getting stronger at the broken places.

15 years after Ryan died, we saw it was the right time to build our foundation–Ryan Shines–in honor of our son.

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Ryan

One purpose of our foundation is to ensure that no burn child is left behind.

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We have created a safe place where burn survivors can heal.

It’s a place where we don’t run ahead of them demanding they keep up with us.

 

We communicate face to face on the same level.

And when we hear them begin to talk about their day from hell, when the world reversed its rotation, we are there with them. 

And not only us, but the firefighters were in the center of everything.

There are few men and women who wake up every morning to an unscripted day; a day that could be their last.

 

Firefighters are born, they’re not made. Their kind of courage and two scoops of craziness is deep in their DNA.

They run toward death while everyone else runs away. They have the gift of not thinking about themselves first.

Compassion is at the heart of their work. 

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And compassion is at the heart of our work with them. When I first opened my eyes to it, I had no idea that Alabama is 2nd in the nation in suicide over work-related death.

You understand I’m talking about our firefighters.

It breaks my heart.

So many mothers losing their sons and daughters fighting every day like our family did to make sense of it. But, you know, it doesn’t make sense. 

Now. Imagine these 2 groups–our pediatric burn children and firefighters–spending a weekend or week together. Without saying a word, they recognize that they are standing on common ground. It creates a whole ‘new normal’ for them.

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The bond that began the day of the fire, continues even thru tonite.

It happens at all of our Catching Courage events.

And the bond between them is indestructible. 

One thing I’ve learned over these years is that when something awful happens,

“Why?” is almost always the wrong question.

When the roof caves in or a trap door springs, the only question worth asking is “Where do we go from here?”

And however we may answer that question, part of the answer will always be “together.”

Group Montg.

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

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)

Encouragement · healing-over-pain · Hope

Marius: the courage to survive!

Marius is from Romania, and at the young age of eight, he experienced a horrific accident.

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Marius, age 7

He was sound asleep one minute, and suddenly awoke to a fire in his bedroom, and throughout the whole house.

He was blinded by flames and thick smoke.

He survived because he was able to crawl through the house and into the front yard away from the flames.

bs-marius 4His parents, however, were not as lucky and did not survive.

Marius sustained 3rd and 4th degree burns over 75 percent of his body; he lost his nose, he lost his fingers, and he lost his family.

He was treated in Romania and placed in an orphanage while he recovered.

He had two surviving siblings who were away at the time, but neither was able to care for Marius.

bs-marius 3While recovering in the orphanage Marius met two student nurses from the United States, these women feel in love with his infectious personality, and his courage to survive.

They decided to do something more for him and coordinated his transfer to Shriner’s Hospital in Los Angeles, California. 

Since coming to the United States Marius has undergone many operations: eye reconstruction, six toe-to-finger transfers, nose reconstruction and skin grafting of the mouth.bs-marius 5

But his healing in the United States has included more than his physical recovery.

Marius was adopted by the loving family of one of the American nurses that helped him in Romania.BS marius2

Now a thriving teenager, Marius is settled into his new life and new family.

He is an excellent student, plays on the football team and is looking forward to getting his driver’s permit.

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Marius is living proof of the perseverance of the human spirit.

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

“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