The One Burned Is Not The Only One Hurting

By: Renee Powell

A burn injury is the worst injury the human body can suffer. But the one that has been burned is not the only one hurting. Everyone who loves that person, especially a mate, is dying inside. And the very worst thing you can do is fight, bicker, argue among yourselves. You may think how could a family do that to one another during such a trying time? I certainly never thought any of this would happen. Well, I was wrong.


April 30th, 2001 began as any other Monday. Ken must have pulled me back into bed three times that morning. I can still see his smile and the love shining in his eyes. But he finally got around for work, kissed the kids goodbye and me and said, "I love you. See you tonight." Little did I know those were the last words I would ever him speak.

At around 1:30 that day, someone came through the door of the direct care home I worked at, calling my name. It was Ken's sister, Becky, and she said the words I shall never forget. "You need to leave. Kenny's been hurt really bad. You have to get to the hospital."

I simply nodded, thinking she was exaggerating. I went to the phone to call someone in. Before I could, my sister called. She was also Ken's step mom and told me how bad he was. She was hysterical and crying. Paul, her husband, had been burned as well, even though not as badly. But someone came in right away. When I got to the hospital, they were getting ready to life flight him to Kalamazoo to a burn unit. I, of course, was in no condition to drive an hour and a half. So my sister, Ken's other sister, Ethel, and myself piled into my mother's van, the map to the hospital tightly clutched in my hand. Paul and Fred, Ken's brother, were on their way also, in Fred's truck.

Bev, my sister, talked the whole way on how horrible it was. The explosion had taken off the roof of the dock at Tri State Cylinders, where Ken, Paul, and Fred all worked. Ken had been bleeding off gas outside, and an idiot decided to go in and light the furnace, and it mixed with the gas outside. The explosion knocked Ken across the street to his Dad's back yard. When the ambulance came he wouldn't let anyone help him, he climbed on that gurney himself.

"Renee," Bev said. "The hospital said he may be dead before we get there. I'm sorry, but I thought you should know." The things you should know are if you have clean clothes for that day, or if you need to stop at the store for a gallon of milk. You should never have to know that the man you plan on spending the rest of your life with could be dying.

We arrived at the hospital at the same time as Paul and Fred. The nurse explained to us that Ken had suffered 3rd degree burns everywhere but his feet, and would most likely not survive the night. It was decided that his Dad and I would be the first to see him. In order to go into his room, gloves, mask, bonnet, and a gown had to be worn. No matter how strong you are, you are not prepared for that first glimpse into hell. Cause that is what it is.


Ken was wrapped in thick gauze everywhere but his feet. I only knew it was him by his stubby toes. He was hooked up to a machine that monitored his heart, blood pressure, pulse, and oxygenination. He also had several IV's going. And, of course, he was on a ventilator, even though we were told he was breathing on his own when they got him. I covered his hand with his and told him he had to get better. We were to be married in a few months, and he couldn't miss that, could he? The nurse in the room looked at me with pity. His dad kept peeking in the room, wanting to see if I was done yet. I guess he expected me to just say goodbye and let him go. Cause he had no faith that he would I spent most of that first week at Ken's make it. I spent most of that bedside, my hand on his arm, talking to him, telling him how very much I loved him. The nurses got to know me well, and would tell me if they were giving him a new med. they knew now that was the first thing I checked, and if I had questions, I would surely ask. They had him in a drug-induced coma, so he would rest.

Since he had so little reserve skin, his skin had to be grown in a lab in Boston. It turned out that his face was only 2nd degree and a couple other areas were not burned. As time passed, he defied the odds with every day that he lived. His father gave me nothing but trouble, told me when I could see him and when I couldn't. At one point, he thought I had tried to get Ken's workmen's comp checks, and called the hospital and told them I could not see him anymore. Do you think that stopped me? The nurses just pretended I wasn't there. I talked to them every morning and every evening, and was there as often as I could be. But I didn't understand why his father was being this way to me. What had I done, but love his son, and refuse to give up?

I know once his dad had said to me" Are you sure that you want to be with him? Do you have any idea what he is going to look like?" I looked him straight in the eye and told him that did not matter. I loved him, and was not going anywhere. Scars did not matter the least to me. I remember very well the first time they called and told me he was awake. I will never forget walking into that room and saying his name, and his eyes opened, and filled with tears. He knew who I was and while he couldn't talk, he didn't have to. I say it all in those eyes, and when he pulled me to him, I could not stop the tears. At that moment, I really thought he was going to be ok.

He got his first infection at that point and they had to put him back under the paralyzing drug. There was a meeting with his father and his doctors, deciding if they should go on. It was his father who just wanted to end everything, and let him die. I began to wonder if he was human. How could he even think of doing such a thing? The nurses asked me for my opinion and I told them to wake ken up and ask him what he wanted. Well, it turned out we did not have to resort to such matters. Ken pulled through the crisis, much to the amazement of others.

Two months later, they were bringing him awake. A lot of his skin had healed and where he had been grafted, it really looked good, except for his back. That still continued to be stubborn and didn't take very well. The last time I saw him alive his precautions had been reduced. I only had to wear the gown and mask. for the first time I was able to touch my lips to his when I told him goodbye. He moved around a great deal that day, and I thought it was only a matter of time before he would be awake.

Two days later, his kidneys shut down, just like that and he was gone before I got there. I walked in that room, and there was no machines beeping, the ventilator wasn't making his chest rise and fall. He lay there, his beautiful eyes shut forever. And I wanted to die along with him. I could not picture a life without my Ken, and still have trouble doing that.

I went to his dad's and all of us were there. His sisters, and Fred and as soon as they saw me, they came and held me. And I knew I would always have a family.

At the funeral home, his dad came up to me and told me how sorry he was. And I knew then that in his own way he was trying to atone for his behavior. He said he had really wanted him to make it, and said I would always be his daughter, for I had stayed by his side until the very end. We remain close to this day. They are days we cry over him, cause we loved him best.

His mother came in from Tennessee, and after the funeral thanked me for loving her son and making him happy. I miss Ken everyday, and wish that he was here. Cause some days, it seems unbearable without him.

But I hope I have made my point. At times like these, when emotional pain is at its peak, the worst thing you can do is fight. Cause that only makes the pain worse. A family needs to stick together and be there for one another. That is the most important thing.