My scars cannot be seen on my skin; that does not mean, however, that they are any less painful. For middle and high school, I attended a private, all-girls, college-prep school. During those seven years, I experienced severe bullying. I faced verbal and relational aggression, typical of all-female environments. I faced physical bullying and cyberbullying, characteristic of middle and high school years. I did not expect to also face sexual bullying, which was perhaps the most traumatic of them all. I was taunted for many reasons, from being innocent-minded to having a learning disability. The mental scars on my brain from those years manifested themselves in different ways. My vivid nightmares were so bad that I cried, hit and kicked my pillows, and even screamed in my sleep. I developed paranoia and never felt calm because I believed my bullies were always out to get me, even if they were not all the time. I began having panic attacks at a young age, but I had no name for what I was experiencing and thus received no help for them. I was depressed, even cripplingly at times. When I entered college, I was finally given a name to the scars on my heart: C-PTSD, or complex post-traumatic stress disorder. C-PTSD arises when one is repeatedly and constantly exposed to traumatic events, usually of the same kind. My trauma was the peer-to-peer aggression. Part of my healing journey was becoming an anti-bullying activist. By sharing my story at schools, churches, conferences, and other places, I started feeling more comfortable with my past and confident in myself. Advocating for additions in anti-bullying policies and laws has made me feel less like a passive recipient of my life circumstances. I take action both to make sure others do not deal with the same situations I had to and to bring meaning to what I experienced. Someone once told me that they were surprised I was still alive, after everything I have dealt with and all the thoughts I had about myself and my life. I suppose graduating high school was my chance at a new life. If that is the case, then I would like to think I am using it right.
My name is Tessa Jo. I am many, many things. My favorite title will forever be the that of Momma though there are other titles I am proud to wear. Not because I am happy that they happened to me but because I am happy in spite of it all. I am better because of it. I am a Survivor. More specially I am a Burn Survivor and a Domestic Violence Survivor. The two go hand in hand for me as the latter caused the former when my ex brutally attacked me. It has been and, at times, continues to be a struggle but I refuse to allow what happened to me define me and I will not give it the power to hinder my growth. Acceptance has been a hard road traveled but I feel like I'm finally arriving to that place. That place of wonder in the beauty of just being. I would love to show the world, especially my fellow Survivors that anything is possible if you just believe that it is. To say that the only true limits we have are the ones we put on ourselves. To say whatever your dreams are, it's time to wake up and chase them. I want everyone to know they have a badass inside them and it's time to unleash them. I want the world to know how vital it is to love yourself and know who you are. What better way to do that then by showing them that I do?
Follow Tessa Jo on Facebook: Tessa Jo Ratajczyk
Alyssa McDonald was two years old when she accidentally knocked over a pot of scorching hot melted butter directly onto her face and part of her shoulder. An entire childhood and adolescence spent in and out of hospitals suddenly became normal for the Cincinnati, Ohio resident. The incident happened in McDonald’s maternal grandmother’s kitchen on Memorial Day in 1993, and it caused her to suffer severe burns all over her face and lose her left eye. “My uncle was the one who found me,” McDonald reveals. “He took a paper towel to wipe the butter off my face and when he did, he said my skin was melting off onto other parts of my face and into the sink.” McDonald was rushed to the hospital, where she went into a two-week coma. She said her body swelled up 10 times its size and she was blind for a short period of time. Doctors went so far as to tell her parents to start preparing funeral arrangements because they didn’t think she would live. Complications following the incident resulted in McDonald having to miss school for weeks at a time, wear “itchy, hot, tight” compression garments, and soak her skin in a special solution every night that hurt so bad that she had to be held down in the tub. “In school, kids would be like, ‘Ew, look at her face,’ and I’d be like, ‘Whose face?’ Then, I realized they were talking about me,” McDonald says. “My family instilled confidence in me at a young age. I didn’t know I was different. I never had that complex. They never let me think of myself as a victim.” After undergoing more than 100 surgeries and years of facing bullies, who called her “monster,” McDonald stopped undergoing surgery as soon as she hit adulthood. According to McDonald, her doctors had good intentions, but most of the consultations consisted of them pointing at various parts of her body, followed by, “This is the problem and this is how we’re going to fix it.” She disagreed. “Are we fixing it for you guys, or are we fixing it for me because I think I look fine,” McDonald says. “I was tired. I’d been doing this since I was two years old. At 18, I was like, ‘This is my body. I love it the way it is, and you’re not going to touch me anymore.’ Now, at 25 years old McDonald is busy being a mother to a 7-month-old girl named Alijah. She’s also busy changing the narrative of what normal is. Her Facebook page, “I Wear My Scars – Flaws Like Diamonds,” exists to help others accept their own flaws. “Almost immediately after creating the page, I received messages from people all over the world saying, ‘It’s so refreshing to see someone navigating the world with their flaws fearlessly."
“When I was ten years old, a neighborhood bully threw a Cool-Whip container full of gasoline on me and set me on fire. I had second and third degree burns on over fifty-percent of my body, and I couldn’t go outside for years. I remember sitting at the window one day watching my brothers and friends play, and I made a promise to myself: ‘When I’m able to go outside again, I’m going to see as much of the world as I can.’ There were commercials on TV about the military that said, ‘Be all that you can be’ and those caught my attention. I researched it and decided to go Navy because they traveled. I was able to touch every continent on this planet except Antarctica, and I don’t consider that a continent; it’s just a big block of ice. [*laughs*] I served on the USS Carl Vinson in the western Pacific and deployed twice to the Persian Gulf, where I transitioned to the weapons department. Building missiles, bombs, and torpedoes is dangerous work. It only takes one wrong tug, one wrong push, and all of us would be gone, so we had to build trust and support. We had to know that we’d go down there and make the right decisions. I didn’t have to go on that second deployment, but I extended my contract so I could. I wanted to. A lot of my friends were still there and I didn’t want to leave them, just in case something were to happen. Being in the Navy was the first time I had ever stepped out of my house and had a group of people who would watch my back and be with me no matter what. If I was hungry, they fed me. If we were hungry, we fed each other. We never left anyone out. They taught me loyalty. We became brothers there. We were all we had. If something happened, they would have pushed me out of the way and taken it, and I would have done the same for them. In the good times, traveling all over the world, to the bad times, losing family members and friends, we stuck with each other. It was tough, but we made it through. “We’re scattered all over the world now, but we still stay in regular contact. We still motivate and push each other. Not long ago, one of my friends was thinking about dropping out of college, and we all got on the phone. He didn’t drop out. We have lifetime support that will never change, and we know each other's boundaries. “When I first got out of the military and came back to Memphis, I bumped into the guy who set me on fire when I was a kid. I used to think, ‘If I ever see him again, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that.’ And when I saw him, I was angry. I approached him and said, ‘Do you know who I am?’ He said ‘Nah.’ I said, ‘Yeah, you know who I am.’ He kept saying, ‘I’m sorry for what happened to you, man. I didn’t have nothing to do with that.’ Rage just instantly clicked on inside me, but I stopped. One thing that the military taught me was control. I could easily, easily have hurt him, but I didn’t. I let it go. I look back at all the things I was able to do because of what I went through, and I can say he played a part in pushing me through the path of my life. I enjoy my freedom. I enjoy being able to go out and touch these different countries. I enjoy the friends that I have. And if it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have had all that.
I am a motivational speaker and also speak at schools to children about bullying. Follow me: https://www.facebook.com/JustinBrazilLAT/
When Tatyana was six months old she suffered third degree burns to her right hand, stomach, and the left side of her face after falling onto a blazing hot wood stove. She said: “Most people I see in public stare, point and whisper about me to their friends. She was repeatedly bullied and teased for her appearance and has had more than 100 surgeries on her burns. “I’ve found myself crying on so many occasions, I can’t understand how some people can be so cruel.” Nonetheless, she didn't let that bring her down. Tatyana is more than fighter and conqueror. She has recently produced the documentary, Burn Camp (burncampmovie.com) that tells her story and the stories and perspectives of other burn survivors.
Tatyana also counsels at the Fire and Ice camp in Portland and volunteers at the Connecticut Burn Camp to help with self-esteem and confidence with other burn survivors. She concluded with, “I feel like I’ve come out on top and defied any negativity thrown at me, if I can do it anyone can, just believe in yourself.”
The Flawless Project participant.
I Am More Than A Conqueror
Hey what’s up everybody? My name is Kenny, but I go by Ken or Kendawg, I am 29 years old and as everyone can see and I am a burn survivor. I’ve been trying to get on The Steve Harvey show, Ellen DeGeneres and other talk show’s for me to tell my story and help me with my journey. So, I’m going to disclose my tragic story to y’all and hopefully I’ll get a lot of respect for it. When I was 3 yrs old I was in a severe fire accident with my grandpa that burned 85% of my body and left me disfigured for life. All I remember was me playing with my toys and watching TV while my grandpa was sleeping on the living room couch. When all of a sudden I heard this big explosion or somebody must have thrown something at the living room window because flames started to flair up. I woke up my grandpa to let him know that our apartment was on fire and at the same time I was in disbelief because I didn’t want anything happen to me nor my grandfather. I was so scared that I didn’t know what to do so I’d panicked, I was crying, yelling and screaming for help. I didn’t know how to unlock doors at the time because I was trying to get out the apartment from the front door and as I can see my grandfather was dying from the smoke inhalation. I was thinking about calling the ambulance and just trying to prevail out of something that was hard, but me being a baby I’d didn’t know how to work those kind of things. At least I did try to do what I had to do which was to get out the apartment the best way I could. My grandfather had a solution, the best way for me to get out the burning apartment was through the window where the fire was coming from. I had no choice but to go through the fire in order for me to live.
As I was being carried out the window, the fire burned almost everything on me including my shirt, pants and skin … everything! Heroically my grandfather helped me make it out, but I was left with scars and a damaged self-image.After the ambulance came my grandfather was pronounced dead. I’ve had numerous of operations and it’s been a while since I have my last operation. But, I want some more because I want to be able to function with my hands and fingers, so I created a go fund me account so I’ll be able to receive the new surgeries needed to function better. I get ridiculed about about my looks a lot because people just see me as a burn survivor – the outside of my skin – but they have no idea how I am on the inside which is really what matters. These problems really hurt me. I stress a lot and get depressed over them too … I know I probably shouldn’t tell people that because they can use that against me. I barely get along with family members because ever since I was little they’ve always treated me like an outsider and like I am a six grader, which makes me not vibe with certain family members at all. I never had friends come over and kick it with me and none of my peers never invited me to go out of town with them at all because they think that I’m not able to do anything or that I’m worthless. And my little cousin used to treat me like that as well. That’s why I kinda hold this animosity towards certain people. Don’t get me wrong, I am a nice person but don’t think for second that I am simpleminded or naive. If my hands weren’t this deformed I could probably do way more than what people think I can. And, some people hate on me.
Help support Ken in getting the surgery he needs! https://www.gofundme.com/exf7bpsk
The FLAWLESS Project participant.
I Am More Than My Anxiety
My anxiety is a never-ending battle within myself. It’s a constant fear, worry, and troubled thoughts that’s continuously ongoing within my mind. I’ve come to understand that it’s hereditary and psychological, and something that one can control. I feel as though it’s a common misconception, because it is not something that can be easily controlled. If it were, I’d have no anxiety at all. Anxiety runs in my family, especially worse for my mother who’s sought treatment for me in my early teens. Even living years on multiple medications to treat my anxiety, I never really found a cure for it. With multiple side effects and ultimately left feeling unemotionally attached, I’d eventually decided to let go of all the medication. To this day, I believe that the mind is obviously the most powerful tool. As I’ve matured, I continued my own self-therapy with positive thinking. It helps, however, I will always live with the random skin-crawling worrysome, and the continuous fearful thoughts of something gone wrong. It’s a lifelong battle that I’ll always have to deal with, but it’s a battle that’s made me stronger. I am more than this worrysome and medication. I am more than my anxiety.
~ Sara B.
My Scars Are A Second Chance
I was in a horrific car accident when I was 21 yrs old. I fell asleep while driving and broke both my legs and fractured my jaw. Doctors had to fill half my body with metal to sustain my movement and mobility. "For years my scars were hard to look at, it reminded me of the most difficult time of my life. I've grown to where I can accept my past and embrace my blessings. The scars resemble a second chance. For that I'm grateful."
~ Nick A.
The FLAWLESS Project participant.
On 3.30.14 I was the passenger in a rollover car accident in Southern California. It was late night, with a few cars on the highway. The driver, a friend at the time was driving my car. On our way to see friends the driver was driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol and driving at an estimate of 70mph. She was also distracted using her cellphone. I asked her before leaving if she was ok with driving because I was feeling tired, as she agreed I confided in her to get us both there safely. I noticed she had been using her cell phone. Ten minutes on the road I asked her to please pay attention. Within that brief second she looked up from her screen and was startled by the car in front of us. She pulled the steering wheel hard to the right and we took off the side of the highway. She had been speeding and traveling too closely to the car in front of us and tired to avoid rear-ending the vehicle. We hit the pavement, rolled multiple times, and traveled about 300 ft. according to the police report. I remember seeing the cars bright lights and screaming her name seconds before hitting the pavement. I gained conscious shortly after, and remember almost everything up until arriving at the hospital. There are many things that saved our lives that night: wearing our seatbelt and the people in the car driving behind us. They had witnessed everything and pulled over to render aide. I can only imagine the fear the first witness must have had seeing my bloody and beaten body stumble crying helplessly out of the car. The woman laid me down and I remember the conversation and questions people were asking me. “Who’s the president, do you know where you are?” I could hear my friend crying in the distance. I cried for them to help her out, to which one of the gentlemen responded, “She’s not breathing.” I began to panic and kick my legs and scream, “Don’t tell me that!” She was locked in the seatbelt; she eventually had to be cut out of the car. He came over to tell me she was ok, she was breathing but unconscious. He began to comfort me until the paramedics arrived.
As I cried to call my other friends back at the hotel I had to hold my left hand together. It was deteriorated off the bone. I still remember the feeling of the raw bone and blood gushing over my hands. Paramedics arrived, carried me off on a stretcher, and took me to the nearby hospital, which luckily was 5 minutes away. I arrived at the hospital and life becomes a blur at this point. My brother is the first of my family to arrive and he was such a big sign of hope and comfort for me. He let me know it was going to be ok. Collapsed lung, fractured pelvis, staples along my right arm, countless cuts, blood transfusion, and the most extensive of injuries was my left hand. I had multiple fractures to my wrist and thumb, 4 external fixators, and surgery to repair a major nerve and 3 tendons. My face was swollen like a balloon and my eyes blood shot red. The car was in pieces. Seeing pictures still to this day makes me feel uneasy. The two seats that the driver and I were sitting in were the only things left in one piece. My poor family had to drive 8 hours not knowing my condition, only having the picture of the vehicle to go off of. My heart still breaks for them. Waking in out of sleep and seeing their faces look back at me. I scared them, and worried them deeply. That still has residual emotional effects on me to this day. I spent 5 days at the hospital working to get to a stable condition. 7 months later I’m still making progress. Since then I’ve had another surgery to my left thumb and now have screws and a metal plate. I’m not 100% but nearly there and I couldn’t be more grateful for it. This experience has awakened me. I’ve realized my fullest potential, my love for the ones I care for and the endless amount of gratitude I have for each of them. Through my hardest moments I have become the happiest. Appreciating my life to the greatest extent. I’m not shy about the scars I bare. I’m proud, they are me now. My emotional and physical scars don’t weigh me down negatively; they rise me above and give me strength to keep going, to be better than yesterday. They are my daily reminders that this is my second chance.Driving under the influence shouldn’t be taken lightly, and I urge everyone reading this to please think of those around you before you do. Along with driving impaired, distracted driving is as dangerous. This happened in a matter a few seconds, never thinking this would happen to us. It only takes a few seconds to glance at your phone and lose control or possibly hit another person. Please speak up if you feel someone is being an unsafe driver. Not everyone comes out as lucky as us. Let's help raise awareness towards driving and texting.
Please visit my Gofundme page to help support. http://www.gofundme.com/ae8yxs
Careless Drinking & Driving
Hello, my name is Anita and I think people really need to know how dangerous it is to drink and drive and that's why I wanna share my story. On October 13, 2006 I and three friends went out to a club in downtown Chicago. It was Friday the 13th, my 1st scare of the day I was iffy on going out but did anyway. I didn't drive, another friend did and she was already drinking before she came to get me, and when she picked me up too. It was two of them in the car already and we were going to get our other friend. She had just made 21 almost two months earlier. It was her second time going out with me, but her first with the other two. We all went to high school together and played on the basketball team. We were like family, we did a lot together. I didn't drink that night and the 21 year old had a few swallows of beer. We get to the club and not even three minutes of us being there the driver ran off with other people she knew, so that left us three together the time we were there. We probably were in the club three hours. We might have seen the driver three times while there and each time she had a drink in hand. When we left the club I walked out last because I was watching the driver to see if we needed to get on the train or something. While walking to the car she seemed ok. I hopped in the front seat and we stopped at a gas station around the corner from the club. Out of nowhere the driver and one of my other friends got into it. She walked away from the car about to get on the train, so I went after her and convinced her to come back to the car. I switched from the front seat to the back with the girl that got into it with the driver. The 21 year old got in the front because she was getting dropped of first. We pulled out the gas station and that’s the last I remember.
The driver was speeding and hit a cement beam head on. The car spun and slammed into another one on the driver back passenger side where I was sitting and we ended up in a field. The driver died instantly and the 21year old died on the way to the hospital. My friend in the back seat with me, her eye popped out the socket and her bones in between her eyes were shattered. My head was stuck in the door, they had to cut me out the car, and my head was as big as a basketball. I had a subdural hematoma with bleeding in the brain. My whole front bottom teeth got knocked out, a left elbow dislocation, I had a stroke partially paralyzed on left side, and was in a coma for four days.Nobody had a seat belt on and I was surprised that car didn’t blow up or for that matter any of us even made it, from the pictures I have of the car. The doctors told my family I’d be brain dead if I made it. I don't remember the accident or weeks after leaving the hospital. I only know this from the reports I read, and the stories friends and family told me. I was in the hospital eleven days because the brain injury I had to learn how to walk and talk again. My memory waxed in and out then. I do know this, God wasn't through with me yet. At my bed side, my coach prayed and prayed. That was why I made it. He heard the prayers brought up and blessed me with another chance. I had a fast recovery with those serious injuries and I tell you, it wasn't easy but with God I can do all things thru Christ who strengthens me. Philippines 4:13. I lost my friends in that accident because of a careless act. Not realizing she wasn't just endangering her life but us three who trusted her with our lives and the end to that night was her gratitude to us for trusting her. I did gain something from it all, a testimony and an awesome relationship with my father God. He blessed me to not look nothing like what I’ve been through.
God Bless and click it or ticket it! Don't Drink & Drive!
5 years ago. I had my first psychosis from bipolar. It was triggered by high stress ...not any drugs or alcohol. I caused a traffic accident, no one was injured. I then was encountered with the cops who pinned me on very hot asphalt in Vegas in August. The hot asphalt gave me 2-3 degree burns on my leg, thigh, butt and breast.They are so bad I had get skin graphing surgery. This cost was more than $100,000 for medical bills. I then pursued a civil lawsuit with the police and it was dropped by the judges. They did not consider this "offensive force". So my case will never see a trail with PEERS of my own. It will be dropped forever. The system is rigged and the police have special rights and don't have to be accountable for there actions. My story is like so many others. My story is luckier than many others. Many who have the same diagnosis with bipolar or similar mental illness are dead in the hands of cops or just wrongly put in jail. I'm not sure how to fix a broken system? We don't even vote for the judges who handle civil suits...
The FLAWLESS Project participant.
My Scars Are Beautiful
On December 25, 2012 I was trying to put on the generator for my mum and the thing exploded! 46% of my body was affected with 3rd degree burns. After 3 months I was flown to Germany for my contraction becasue my neck wouldn't move and both my arms didn't work. I had 2 surgeries at Nightingale Hospital in Dusseldorf Germany but they couldn't work on my keloid scars because I couldn't afford it. It's cheaper to treat keloid scarring in the U.S. but I can't get a visa for myself. I have learned to live with my scars. I have a family who loves me so much. Most of the time my eldest son will grab my keloids and smile.
I Love Seeing The Scars
On July 9 I had ACDF, C5-6, surgery and the scar is near the base of my neck and about 2-3 inches wide. I can shave over it although it has a tingle to it that probably will last for years. But I LOVE SEEING THE SCARS because it is a part of me and a very defining thing that speaks loudly as to what we had done. My spine is stronger and getting stronger every day and my SCAR just reminds me that I had a great neurosurgeon, did the right thing, and am on my way to less pain and more strength and range of motion as well. Next, I just had Arthroscopic shoulder surgery and haven't yet seen the scar since the dressing is still in place until tomorrow when I do my first Physical Therapy session to help nurse my shoulder back to health. I am proud of my scars and very proud of my EXPERT DOCTORS who are so great at what they do and so willing to serve their fellow man as needed.
Embarrassed No Longer
Growing up, I always had foot pain in my right foot. Ever since I could remember, I would always cry about my foot hurting but when it came time to see the doctor, we always heard the same story, growing pains and that I was fine. Well, years later, I ended up hurting my foot. I went to the doctor who then referred me to a podiatrist. The podiatrist looked at my foot and saw I was flat footed. With further ct scans and X-rays, it showed that I had torn two ligaments in my foot which was due to being flat footed, that I had a bone talon on the top of my foot sticking upward, and that my foot slightly faced outward. Reconstructive surgery was then performed. My doctor moved the heel of my foot over 2mm and by doing that, it raised where I would have an arch and he made an arch for me. To keep it in place, I have metal in my heel. He then fixed my torn ligaments and removed the bone talon. My perfectly normal foot before now has scars all over. I have 2 on the outer side of my foot about 3 inches long each, one on the top of my foot that's about 1 inch, and one scar on the back of my leg about a 1/2 inch long. To me, this was a big deal. I would get a pedicure every couple weeks or so. Well, the first time I got one after my incisions healed, the lady was grossed out by my scars. It made me feel so self conscious and embarrassed to the point where I didn't even want to wear flip flops. After telling my story to a friend, Michelle, she made me feel good and told me not to be embarrassed, They're my scars and they tell a story, and that they are beautiful. And one day, I was laying in bed, and what she said hit me! Why be embarrassed? She was right. That lady who did my pedicure was rude with her facial expressions as she massaged my foot. Now, I was just in a car accident a week ago where I broke the same foot...the same foot after it just got fixed. I had surgery, again, on the same foot two days ago. Not sure exactly where the incisions are this time until I go for my follow up in a few days. But I do know that I won't be embarrassed by them anymore.
~ Ashlee M.
Not only is this my story but it is my testimony. Praise God. On June 5, 2013 I was driving home from the club. I was speeding and driving buzzed down the I-15 freeway. I was going about 110 mph heading around a curve when I lost control and hit another vehicle. My Acura somehow flipped on its side, while it was sliding I could hear the windows breaking all around me and I could feel my car getting crushed on the asphalt with this horrible screeching metallic sound that I will never forget. Sparks were flying all around me. I closed my eyes and thought, "God, am I going to die?" "Where are you?" Then the car did a full flip, now sliding fully upside down, down the highway. I tried to make my body move with the force and direction that the car was moving because I didn't have my seat belt on. My car still flipping over slid about a quarter of a mile into the interstate side desert ditch, (right underneath the exit 42B sign). When the car finally stopped, I was laying upside down in total shock. I couldn't believe I was still alive. Thinking my car was going to blow up, I crawled out the completely broken driver side window not even realizing the severe damage of road burns, blood, and ripped open skin all down my right arm and shoulders. As I was crawling on the ground, a panicked blonde haired lady came running towards me telling me I was going to be okay as she called 911.
Then I looked back at my flipped over crushed car with the wheels still spinning. It looked like a monster truck ran it over multiple times. I asked myself, "how could I be so reckless and careless?" "What if I hurt or killed this man I hit or even killed myself? "Then, the man I hit was furiously yelling on the other side of the interstate how fast I was going and how I could've killed him to all the witnesses that came to help. As he was yelling, I just kept whispering,"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." Over and over again. Then my thoughts took over, "What was I thinking, driving like that?" For far too long, I've been speeding and driving buzzed, and now look what's happened!!! I have almost killed myself and someone else! I'm ashamed to admit this, but I would even speed when I was fully sober. I've had fast cars my whole life and speeding is what I loved to do any chance I got. Speeding was always an adrenaline rush for me but especially when I would drink. It was a sad habit of mine, and now it has finally caught up with me... Then I looked down and saw nothing but blood all over my body. I wasn't sure where the blood was coming from until I saw (my almost near gone arm) missing a huge chunk of meat in the bend of my elbow and chunks missing along the entire back side of my arm. The blood just kept gushing out and I started to get cold. I kept thinking they might have to amputate it. That's when I just looked up into the dark sky and stared at one single star and fell to the ground. I wasn't sure if I was going to make it. I was losing so much blood. In that moment, I could feel the presence of God with me and I heard a soft like whisper in my mind saying, "I'm here child." (Believe me, the alcohol had completely worn off by then. I only blew a .088 on the breathalyzer field test, which is barely over the legal limit). Then I got loaded into the ambulance and taken to UMC Trauma where I spent two long painful weeks in the Burn Care Unit.
I had multiple surgeries (debriments) where they pulled out glass, rocks, and bits of the road from my arm and shoulders. They concluded that I was going to need skin graphs. If you don't know what skin graphs are, its when they cut off skin from a different part of your body and adhere it to the damaged area. Many risks are associated with it and there's a chance the skin can be rejected from your body which leads to having to do the whole process over again. They'll continue the process over a duration of many surgeries till the skin adheres. I did not want to go thru more pain and more surgeries. I saw about nine doctors during those weeks and I told them God was going to heal me, and that I don't need to do the skin graphs. Of course they didn't believe me and some of their responses were," God's done a lot already and he saved you, you are extremely lucky but you will need the graphs, you have third degree burns and if you don't get the graphs, you can get an infection. All 9 doctors concured that I need the skin graphs. No way around it. But I just kept on praying. And through continuous prayer, belief, and agreeance with others, God answered my prayers! I did not have to get skin graphs thanks to confirmation from a renowned award winning doctor God led me to through different doctors my husband just happened to meet ; shortly after the other 9 doctors conclusion! Hallelujah!!!! God was right on time! I love when people think that God can't do something, and then he shows up and shows off! "Therefore I say unto you, what things you so ever desire, when you pray, believe that you have received them and you shall have them." Matthew 11:24. I'm so thankful I didn't listen to the doctors and waited on God for HIS ANSWER!
As of now, God is still continuing to heal me emotionally and physically. I had to have a nurse come see me daily for 5 months to change my bandages and clean my wounds. This whole experience has been the most excruciating and agonizing pain I've ever dealt with physically and mentally. Mentally because it has made me realize all the mistakes and bad choices I've made in my life and having to get reminded of it everyday when I look in the mirror and see my scars. However, seeing my scars also reminds me that through it all God was with me, I'm still alive and I survived! Not only did God save my life but he also saved the life of the man I hit and he had no injuries! Both our vehicles were completely totaled and un-repairable. I have heard countless stories of car accidents where the intoxicated driver survives and the person they hit dies or suffers from tremendous injuries. I am beyond grateful and will thank God for the rest of my life that the man I hit was not killed or injured. Nor did he lie about being injured as many have done for insurance purposes...all he wanted was a new car...
I thank God everyday for all he did and I believe God wanted me to share this story with you. Not only for what he did but to help others to realize how dangerous speeding, drinking and driving is. And don't think buzzed driving isn't drunk driving. It is very much so. Please take heed to my story and understand the consequences that come with it. I also hope and pray it helps to touch someone to get closer with God or to come back to God if you have gone astray. He loves us all unconditionally and is so faithful. Just know you are never alone. Trust him. He is with you even when it seems like he's not. May God bless you and please keep praying for continuous healing and strength for me, as I will be praying all good things for you. Thank you for reading this. I hope this can inspire the world of God's power and grace while showing how very important it is to not speed, drink, and drive.
Thank you God for allowing me to create My Scars Are Beautiful for it has brought peace and light to my mind, body, and soul. And I thank you lord for letting it help others. In Jesus name, Amen!!!
I Am A Burn Survivor
It started November 11th. I had just had my daughter 4 weeks before and I was exhausted. My mom offered to babysit my 2 year old, DJ and my newborn, Nyla. My 6 year old was at school. My husband and I were on the way home after dropping the kids off. We were in the car, our light had just turned green and I was waiting in the middle of the intersection to turn after the car on the opposite side of me passed. I looked to my left and seen an SUV coming towards me at a high speed and thought surely she would stop. She didn't, she ran her red light and crashed into the driver side. My car was completely split in half, even though I had my seatbelt on, the impact of the crash ripped it off and I got ejected out of my car. I did not feel any pain because I blacked out. I woke up in the middle of the road with people surrounding me asking me tons of questions. The ambulance then took my husband and I to the ER room and neither of us even had a broken bone, nail, I mean nothing. All I could do was thank GOD that I was able to walk away from such a horrific accident with only road burn and seatbelt burns. I was even MORE thankful that my kids were not in the car at the time. When I got home, all I could do was cry for days. "What if my babies were in my car and I lost them?!" "How could I ever survive without them?" Prior to my wreck, I was stressed. I didn't think I could possibly raise 3 kids, I was scared but I knew God wouldn't put anything on me that I could not handle. After the wreck I stayed at my moms and stepdads for almost a week so that they could help my husband and I with the kids. I cried to my mom multiple times because I couldn't stop imagining that I could have lost my babies. If DJ seen me cry, he would become very concerned. He would sit on my lap and look me in the eyes "what wrong mommy??" I would reply "nothing baby, mommy just loves you so much, that's all... I'm okay I promise"
About a week later, I was ready to go home and get back to my mommy duties. I remember telling my best friend "man, with my luck... the next thing that would happen to me is my apartment will catch on fire" I was joking, I was just being my silly self, not thinking that it would really happen.
November 19, 2015
My husband and I went grocery shopping that morning, got DJ all kinds of his favorite foods and got some things I wanted DJ to help me make that day while his daddy slept the day away because he was working 3rd shift. The night before (from November 18th-19th), I literally did not sleep the entire night. Nyla was getting up about every hour or 2 so I watched her and DJ sleep the entire night. I went to pick up my oldest son, Braylen later that day from his grandmothers house after he got out of school... She said "oh, I thought he was going to stay with me tonight" I was a little upset, I just wanted all 3 of my babies with me. The day of the 19th was different than any other day for some reason.That morning I let DJ have his favorite cereal (Lucky Charms) and he ONLY ate the charms lol. For lunch, I let him help me make pigs in a blanket. He took a bite after they cooked and he spit it out and threw it down "nassssy mommy!" total fail. But it was the moment of him helping me cook that meant something to me. Most of the day Nyla (who was 5 weeks old at the time) was sleeping. I caught DJ a couple times taking her pacifier and coming up to me cracking up. "DJ, that's sissy's paci silly!" So he would give it back to her. He loved looking at his new little sister, he loved kissing her too.
It was about 4pm that day and it was time for my husband to get up, DJ was a daddy's boy. He was so ready for daddy to wake up and play. I taught him how to talk in a British accent that day and told him to go wake up daddy and say "wayke up dahhty", I could not stop laughing. It was so cute. The rest of the day, we all just chilled out. We watched sponge bob about 20 times and listened to "whip and nae nae" about 142 times 🙄(DJs favorite song and dance) At about 9:30pm I had DJ go to the gas station with me to pick his favorite snack before he went to bed and we had to take my husband to work at 11:00pm (I never did this, this was totally out of the norm for me lol) of course, he picked sugar loaded powdered donuts but for some reason I was totally okay with it. When we got home, we all sat in the living room as a family and were inhaling some donuts. DJ had it ALL OVER his lips so we were cracking up. He looked like a baby crack head 😂.
It was 10:30 and was time for us to take my husband to work (we were only down to one car which was my parents because of my wreck the week earlier). When I dropped my husband off DJ threw a raging fit because he wanted his daddy to stay home with us (he never ever did this) he usually just said "bye daddy, yuh you!!!" He threw that fit the entire way back home. When we finally got home. I put Nyla down to sleep on the couch while I cleaned. Of course DJ wanted to help me clean so I let him. I was extremely sleep deprived from not sleeping the night before so my body was wearing down. DJ wanted to watch "pungebob" before he went to sleep. So we all sat on my big chair. DJ was on one side of me and I held Nyla on the other side. DJ ended up falling asleep next to me and I just watched them sleep, and thought how beautiful and grateful I am that I made these beautiful babies.
I guess where I was SO exhausted I fell asleep with them in the chair around 1:00. I had just gotten off the phone with my best friend and told her I made some awesome ice cream cake that I wanted her to try.
(this is graphic)
Before I fell asleep I cracked open 2 windows because I turned my little space heater on and it got too hot in the living room, so I was letting some cool, fresh air in. Around 1:35 I woke up to DJ next to me saying, "MOMMY, MOMMY!!!" I slowly opened my eyes and seen huge flames about a foot away from us. I had about 2 seconds to make a decision, either sit there or walk through the wall of flames in front of me because there was a small space that had not caught fire yet. I had Nyla in my left arm, and grabbed DJs hand with my right hand (I could not pick him up because I was still hurt from the car wreck and if you knew DJ, he wasn't the lightest child to pick up, I tried my very best to) I did what I thought would save us, I covered Nyla with the bottom of my shirt and I ran with DJs hand on my other side. When running through the flames, I'm guessing DJ got scared and let go once I was almost close to the door. At that point the flames were literally chasing us like it was a game of tag. I still had Nyla and was headed for the door. I could hear DJ coughing and trying to scream for me. I could hear him, but not see him. This fire was not something you see out of a movie. At this point my entire living room was engulfed in flames with pitch black smoke. I had an idea of where DJ was so I reached through flames to see if he would grab my hand. He didn't 😔.
Now it was time for another decision which was the worst decision I have ever had to make in my life....save my daughter and get out, or stay in the middle of raging flames, literally begin to melt from the heat and fire and try to save DJ but there would be NO way we would all survive. If I did not have Nyla in my arms, I will tell you right now. I would have stayed in there with DJ and passed away right next to him. I went to turn my front door knob and I couldn't, it was like my brain was shutting down from the carbon monoxide and extreme heat. My brain knew to turn the door knob but it was like my brain was not relaying the message to my hand. I remember looking back at all of the flames and thinking "this is it, we are all going to die" (fire has always been my worst fear...that or drowning) I remember looking down at my daughters head and seeing her skin literally melt off like wax on a candle stick. I couldn't hear DJ anymore. But for some reason seeing my daughters skin melt kind of woke me out of my "shock" I opened the door. I first went to my downstairs neighbor and screamed that DJ was caught in my apartment, I still kind of thought this was a dream. I passed a fire extinguisher but there was no axe to break the glass to get to it. I handed my daughter off to my neighbors grand-daughter while my neighbor went upstairs to try and get DJ out. When she went near my door she said "it was like volcano flames and ashes were flying at me". I went outside and stopped "this is not real...this is not real, I'm dreaming, I have to be!". I once again tried to run back in to find him but at that point the flames were coming out of my front door. There was no way.
Then it hit me, I HAD to get everyone out of the entire building now. I can't let everyone die like this. I got about 25+ people out of their homes. There were people watching me run barefooted to get everyone out, nobody was helping me... I think they were also in shock. After getting everyone out of the building I remember standing in front of my apartment crying waiting for the emergency responders to arrive I screamed "MY BABY! GOD PLEASE DO NOT LET MY BABY GO OUT LIKE THIS!!!" When the police arrived I yelled that my baby was inside and tried to run towards my apartment with them but they would not allow me ( I was only able to do all this running because of my adrenaline and body being in shock) I remember a woman hugging me but I couldn't hug her back, I was so hurt (emotionally) I was too worried about my pride and joy burning to death. I was supposed to be his protector and I failed. I didn't even know I was burned. I knew for a fact Nyla was, I seen it happen. I looked down on my right arm which was the arm I tried to save DJ with.My skin was hanging off of my entire arm, it looked unreal. But I couldn't even feel it.
The ambulance arrived. The little girl holding my daughter got in the front seat of the ambulance and I got up in the ambulance myself. I remember the police officer saying "your daughter is crying, that means she's okay...she's crying, that means she's okay" then I started screaming for DJ again. They cut the rings off of my finger and I went out. They took me to the local hospital, that hospital did not have the equipment they needed for a burn victim so I was flown to UK hospital. My daughter was flown straight to Shriners in Cincinnati, Ohio which is a hospital that specializes in burns. I was put on life support, I remember laying in a hospital bed and hearing tons of voices talk to me, tell me they love me, I could hear them crying.But all I could think about was DJ. Since I had a huge tube in my mouth, I had to mouth move the name "DJ". I remember somebody telling me "everyone is okay Whitney, it's all going to be okay" but in my heart, something didn't seem right. My heart told me he was gone even though someone just told me that he was okay.
The next thing I knew, an ambulance took me to Shriners where my daughter was later that night. This is a children's hospital but they took me in so my family did not have to go back and forth between my daughter and I. Once I got to Shriners the doctors told my parents that they did not know if my daughter and I would make it. They couldn't even give them a percentage of our chance of survival. At this time I was getting so irritated that nobody could understand what I was mouth moving to them. I knew at this point, Nyla was alive so far but nobody was talking about DJ. So they gave me a whiteboard and marker to write on. I wrote "DJ" And that's when my mother finally cried and told me "he didn't make it" in my heart, I already knew he didn't make it...but to hear it be 100% confirmed from my mom, I just felt ripping my tubes out right then and there and dying so I could be with him.
I was extremely drugged up, I was hallucinating BAD. They shaved the edges of my hair and completely cut the rest of my hair off. About a week later Nyla got off life support. We were in separate rooms, and due to the high infection rate of burns, they could not bring her to my room so I could see her, I was also still on life support because I could not breath on my own.
The next thing I knew, my family had planned my baby boys funeral. I had no say in it. I begged them to postpone it or make the hospital wheel me in the funeral in my hospital bed to tell my baby goodbye. They said no to both. So I begged the doctors to just let me die "PLEASE! This is torture just let me die, I am begging you all!!!"
DJ did not burn to death... When DJ let go of my hand, he ran to his "safe spot" which was his room (apparently this is what kids do when a fire happens). DJ passed away from smoke inhalation. His room was the ONLY ROOM in my apartment that the flames did not touch. He did not suffer, and only had a small burn on his head and nose.
My journey through tons of surgeries is a whole different story that I will get to one day.
The rumors I have heard about the fire are horrendous.
No, I was not making "meth" ( I actually laughed at that one )
No, I did not jump out of my window or my balcony.
"Whitney only cared about herself so she didn't save DJ" screw you...I know that I did everything humanly possible to save him or else I wouldn't have been burned so bad.
My smoke alarm NEVER went off, and that could have greatly increased DJ's chance of living and Nyla and I not being burned so badly.
I give all props to DJ. HE was my "smoke alarm" I give all of my thanks to him for saving his little sister and I. My fire started because the space heater I was using was recalled back in 2013 (I did not know this until AFTER my fire was investigated). The space heater was turned off but still plugged up so it still had some power source going into it. The space heater exploded. The fire spread so fast because my windows were cracked open so the air from outside was basically giving fuel to the fire. Electrical fires are one of the fastest fires that spread.
I am traumatized for life. I lost my baby boy and the LAST words I heard from him was him screaming "MOMMY!!!!" I did not get to go to his funeral, I didn't even get to SEE his funeral on video because it is gone. I didn't get to kiss him good-bye.
My daughter amazes me every single day, her being a burn survivor has not held her back from anything. She is just like DJ. She is beautiful, her spirit shines so bright.
My oldest son is doing great, he had a very hard time with this at first so we always make sure he stays busy. We love sharing stories with each other about him and DJ. They had a bond that nobody could break. I thank God that his grandmother kept him that night because if she didn't, I don't know if he would be here today. He prays to DJ every single night.
If you have kids, all I ask is:
Kiss them every chance you get
Let them have candy late at night if they want to sometimes.
Sit down and watch their favorite cartoon, don't stay in your phone because it's boring to you.
Let them help you cook, even if it turns out a complete fail.
Look at the beautiful soul(s) you made while they sleep.
It could all be gone in the blink of an eye, literally.
NO mother should ever have to bury her child.
Please check your smoke alarms, NOW. Unplug anything that you are not using just to be safe, please.
I love you Demetrius Micah Johnson. You are forever 2 years old. My burst of energy. My sunshine, my "woosh". My little basketball star.
~Whitney Shay Hope Johnson
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