The Stars of Life and the World Burn Congress 2002

By: Delores Gempel Lekowski

Every big event has its own precession of stars, the shining lights of their affiliations. The World Burn Congress certainly wasn't the exception. There were so many stars in attendance that they could, and did, light up a room! These stars were "The Stars of Life," and there were 540 of them at World Burn Congress (WBC) in Phoenix this past October.


Were these stars famous people? No. Did they walk down a red carpet? No. Well, then, who and what are the "Stars of Life"? "Stars of Life" are burn survivors. Why do I call them that? The dictionary defines a star as a point of light that influences human fate, a grade of quality, outstanding, leading, a distant sun. I believe that sums up the burn survivors who were present at the World Burn Congress. Let me elaborate on why I have referenced burn survivors as part of the solar system.

To start, survivors have, in one way or another, influenced human fate. The very word "survivor" tells us this.


I was greatly influenced by the journeys of the other survivors as, one by one, they stood up and tearfully shared their personal stories of survival and success. Each story more powerful then the last, every story filled with pride, success and bold courage. A lot of pain and tears were shared in this room, but not an ounce of self-pity could be found anywhere -- only points of light that would help brighten the way for the rest of us. Some, who thought the sunlight of their future had been dimmed, discovered through the warmth and success of others that it still can, and will, shine brightly. All of the outstanding character that was projected in this room could light up the solar system. All of the qualities society looks up to defiantly abounded at the World Burn Congress.

I became a survivor at the age of ten and, with the exception of the last eight years, I never knew another survivor. With only my experience to relate to, I became far removed from the initial injury and the fight and courage it took to conquer this injury. As a veteran survivor, the WBC was for me a painful reminder of the past. But, at the same time, I was filled with a sense of amazement and pride for who burn survivors are and what they represent. We can all rest assured that we are well represented daily by our peers.

I am sure everyone returned home from the WBC with a wealth of rejuvenated feelings of hope and determination and each one of us left with our lives made a little brighter by the shining "Stars of Life" that made up the WBC.