Anniversary of a Burn Injury!
By: Delores Gempel Lekowski

Here is yet another reason for stricter regulation of the flammability of consumer products. We all know the physical devastation a burn injury causes. What isn't common knowledge is the hidden emotional devastation a burn survivor faces. The anniversary of this injury can set off an emotional roller coaster for them, filled with anxiety, depression and sadness. To these survivors, this anniversary date is a recurring reminder of when their world changed, of when they became a different person and of when the person they had once been and looked like would never be
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again.

The MetroHealth Medical Center's Burn Care Center in Cleveland recently asked me to be on a panel to discuss this topic. I was a child when I was burned, and though I know I was burned in July, I never knew the exact date of my injury, so my injury anniversary has never been an issue with me. So I felt if that I was going to participate on this panel, I would need to do some research.

I polled 18 burn survivors and found that half of them were negatively impacted on their injury anniversary date. The other nine did not experience this negativity but did surround themselves with friends and loved ones on this day. The amount of time since an injury was not relevant. Some who were burned years before experienced the same turmoil on their anniversary date as those who were burned just one year prior; the pain they experienced seemed to be the same. What differs is how people react to their pain. For instance, a man who was burned 2½
years ago told me that every year he and his family have a celebration of life. Another survivor who was burned 28 years ago - or, more precisely, 28 years 8 months and 7 days ago (at the time she filled out my survey) - said she is saddened every year her anniversary rolls around. She told me that having been burned on New Year's Day, her anniversary date is easy to keep track of. She has not celebrated New Year's since then, and has a difficult time when the New Year rolls around.

All those who participated in my survey found it important and helpful to remember their survival and to never spend this day alone but to surround themselves with friends and loved ones. And to stay away from triggers that remind them of this fateful day.

I thought I knew how my injury had affected me and my family, but I am constantly learning new things about the effects of my burn on family members. Needless to say, the effects have been far-reaching.

A burn injury is a brutal injury. If there was ever an injury that should be aggressively prevented, it is a burn injury. Yet, the efforts to do just that are continually being blocked by politicians

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and lobbyists who feel it is more important to protect the industries that manufacture the consumer products we buy. How about protecting the physical and emotional well-being of the politicians' constituents and of the customers who buy these consumer products from the manufacturers?

Come on, politicians and lobbyists! I am personally appealing to your conscience and sense of right and wrong, your decency. If this brutal injury can be prevented and we can save one person from it, then we need to do just that. I don't understand the complacency here. For years, the foam used in our upholstered furniture has been referred to as "solid gasoline" by firefighters. It can be made more fire resistant, as you know, so why haven't you acted on this? The flammability standards for our clothing are weak and disgraceful, and the technology exists to make clothing safer. So why isn't it?

You know the industry's point of view, but maybe you don't fully understand the ratifications of a burn injury. I am here to help you understand. Anything I can do to help move fire prevention along and give you a better understanding of the lives you can save and the pain you can prevent, I will. You can contact Delores by using the BSTTW Support Team E-Form at http://www.burnsurvivorsttw.org/eforms/supportemail.html.

Wouldn't it be better to replace the anniversary of yet another burn injury with the anniversary of flame resistant upholstered furniture and stricter clothing standards?

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