Blog, Patient

In My Own Words: A Burn Survivor Shares Her Story

By Elizabeth, Children’s Hospital Colorado Patient Ambassador

June 19, 2020

Elizabeth is empowering other burn survivors with the help of a stuffed octopus named Bubbles. Read Elizabeth’s powerful essay about how Children’s Hospital Colorado helped her to heal, inside and out.

Patient Ambassador Elizabeth with her stuffed octopus named Bubbles

Last summer, I was vacationing with friends in Florida, when a grease fire broke out in the kitchen. My arms, legs and right hand were severely burned, and I also got burn splatters all over my face and feet. The burns covered 30% of my body, 16% of which were third-degree burns.

I was airlifted from Naples to Fort Myers and then traveled by emergency transport to Tampa. I was 13 years old and hospitalized all alone, which was really scary.

My family took the first flight out of Denver to be by my side. After spending a week at the hospital in Florida, we returned to Colorado and drove straight to Children’s Hospital Colorado.

After a week full of ambulances, hospitals, nurses, doctors, needle pokes and a lot of pain, the last thing I wanted to do was go to another hospital. However, the first time I walked into Children’s Hospital Colorado, I was amazed. I had never been to a children’s hospital before, and it was completely different from the general adult hospital in Tampa.

When I got there, I was greeted by the most welcoming, friendly and caring people I had met throughout the course of my accident. It took four nurses four hours to remove and re-wrap all of my bandages. I was exhausted, but I finally got the loving care I so desperately needed.

The nurse practitioner then sat down with us and answered all of my questions, which was super helpful. Every single caregiver whom I interacted with gave me a lot of time and attention. I felt welcomed and very loved. For the first time since my accident, I felt like everything was going to be OK.

One of the things I most appreciate about Children’s Colorado is the Child Life team. The Child Life Program provides support services to help kids cope during a medical procedure or hospitalization. Child life specialists help to reduce anxiety, and they were extremely important during my procedures and clinic visits.

The distractions that my child life specialist, Kayla, provided greatly eased my pain. She was the person I needed most when I was undergoing a difficult procedure, such as a dressing change. She would explain everything the team was going to do, and then she would distract me while I was having the procedure performed. Child Life is so important for the healing process, as well as helping patients like me to have a positive mindset.

I further bonded with Kayla over a stuffed octopus. I wanted to find a way for other patients to see and feel the bandage materials used in burn treatment. So I got a stuffed octopus from a local toy store and named it Bubbles. I wrapped each of Bubble’s eight legs in different types of bandages as a visual for Kayla to share with other burn patients. Kayla liked it so much that she arranged for us to appear on Children’s Hospital Colorado’s in-network television station to talk about the project. Bubbles has since become an extension of the Children’s Colorado Child Life team, and he’s helping other burn survivors to feel more comfortable and prepared!

My wounds have mostly healed, but I still go to Children’s Colorado for follow-up appointments. Over the next several months, I will undergo six laser surgeries to help heal the scars on the areas of my body with the worst burns. Kayla, my child life specialist, continues to be an unbelievable source of emotional support for me.

Whenever my mom tells me that I have an appointment coming up, instead of being sad and scared, I get excited. Whenever I leave, I want to go back. The amazing care from the nurses and caregivers at Children’s Hospital Colorado has enabled me to heal inside and out.