Name: Angel Whitehead, Age: 16, from Durham, North Carolina, USA
I was burned when I was 11 on Valentine's Day of 2009. My Dad was cooking dinner for me and my family. My older sister and I had already eaten and were watching TV in my parent's room. My Dad called me in the kitchen to tell me to taste one of the hushpuppies he had just made. It was DISGUSTING, so I threw it away. As I was backing up from the trash can, my Dad was coming forward to the table with more hushpuppies. But he had left the grease in the pan as well. I remember hearing someone say "Watch Out". Just like that, I turned around and grease ran all down my body. Everything after that happened in a blur. i began to scream and hyperventalated. I was traumatized as i saw my skin melting off. The ambulance took 5-10 minutes. When i got in there, i asked if my face had been burned, but they said no. That might have been a way to calm me down. I was burned about 35-40% of my body. This included my right thigh,right arm, right should, part of my back, and the right side of my face. I was treated at the UNC Jaycee Burn Center. I received two surgeries, one for pig-skin grafting, and one surgery for my ear. I remember coming out the skin grafting, dazed and confused. A couple days after the surgery, i went to the bathroom. When i saw my face in the mirror, i almost fainted, because i was so disgusted. All of the hair on my right side was shaved completely off, and my scalp was raw and pink. I remember repeating over and over that i wanted to go home. But i could not go until i could walk on my own without a walker, and i could properly move my right arm. I was released about 2 weeks after I got in. Going home was difficult because I had to adjust to taking all sorts of medicines, and treatments, and i had to keep my burned areas clean, which could be painful. I was home for about 6 weeks until I could return to school. I was so happy when I did.
My life has changed for the better since the accident. I'm a junior in high school now. I am on the honor roll at my school. I have met SO many other teen survivors to connect with, and they are some of my best friends now. I go to several camps, and they teach me techniques on how my keep confidence and self esteem when I'm in the real world. After the accident, i went back to dance classes, where i could express myself freely, and not let anyone judge me. I have been bullied, but i usually brush it off when it happens, because i am not ashamed of who i am or what i look like. I try to make every moment of my life count, and not take things for granted. I always remember that things could have been so much worse. I could have been completely blind or deaf, yet right now, its only partial. I get asked all the time what happened, and when i tell my story, its not a story of sadness, guilt, or shame. It's a story of triumph, and survival. I have gained confidence, self esteem, which is something I didn't have before. I feel more beautiful then ever. I am proud to be a survivor!!!! Be Proud of who you are!!!!