Sometime TONIGHT in between February 28th and March 1st, Mary Ashley Jackson Owens will turn 27!!!!!!  The only problem is that she doesn't really have a true birthDAY this year, or most years for that matter.  She is a Leap Year baby...born on February 29th.  Since this date only comes around every four years, she has actually only had 6 true birthDAYs up to this point...only 6 times in her entire life has February 29th actually happened!  So, this really isn't her 27th birth DAY...its really only her 6.75th birthDAY.

     Even if I had no friends (which I do, I promise), I always have my sisters!  3 to be exact :)  While growing up and moving all over the world, my sisters were my only friends that stuck with me no matter where we lived..I'm sure that why we are all so close.  As long as I had them and my Barbies, I was good...seriously.  Just a few days ago Mary Ashley wrote me a message about her turning 27... 

     "It's crazy. I used to never let my barbies be over 16 bc I thought that was old."
-Mary Ashley

True story.

     So...Mary Ashley, I did the math and you are one lucky girl...you won't be celebrating your actual 16th birthDAY until the year 2052...which means you are still younger than your Barbies!!!!!!

Happy Birthday Yahyee!!!!


Burn Care International - Alejandra Cruz Romero

Alejandra with her younger sister.

Alejandra's accident, told by her mother:

"Six years ago, when Alejandra was three years old, she fell backwards into boiling water.  I took her immediately to Univalle Hospital and she stayed there for one week.  They didn't know how to care for her burns properly and she got worse and worse as time went on.  She developed an infection and her body kept swelling more and more.  By the time I took her out of that hospital her 2nd Degree burns had turned into 3rd Degree and her skin was coming off all over her back as if there was nothing holding it there.  

After leaving Univalle Hospital, I took Alejandra to Hospital Viedma and she was treated by Dr. Romero.  She was constantly bandaged up and began to slowly improve over the next month.  By then she was well enough to leave the hospital.

We went to Juana and Maria to get a Pressure Suit.  Alejandra had to wear it 24/7 for one year...we came back every 2 weeks to get it adjusted in the beginning, then after a while, we came back every month.  I had 10 Pressure Suits for her so that I could make sure they were always clean on her skin.  I used lots of sponge and silicon to also help the skin heal correctly, smooth and flat.

I was terrified that Alejandra was going to have Keloid scars, so I did EVERYTHING possible to keep her skin healing well.  I quit work and I didn't sleep for the first six months...my entire life revolved around Alejandra.  I watched her at every moment to make sure that she never scratched her skin.  If she started itching, I would use sprays, creams and cold water baths to hydrate and soothe the area.  I took her every day for her Physical Therapy sessions at the hospital and even signed her up to do extra therapy in the pool, since I heard it was good to keep the skin moist all of the time.  Each day after her Physical Therapy and pool time, we would come home and I would put her in a bath of Manzanilla...she basically spent that entire year in pools and tubs!  

She continued all of the therapy appointments for one and a half years.  Right after the accident, it was hard to see that my daughter couldn't move well and how painful it was for her to put on the Pressure Suit.  But, it slowly got better and better...now her skin is beautiful and she can move and play just like the other children. 

The most amazing part of her treatment was the Pressure Suit.  The Burn Clinic and Maria and Juana saved her life.  Many children don't have the Pressure Suits because their parents don't know about them or can't afford them.  Juana and Maria always helped me.  Anytime I needed them, they were there for me.  Anytime I couldn't afford to pay for something, they worked it out for me.   I had everything that I needed for my daughter to get better because of these women.  The Pressure Suits made it possible for Alejandra to move and play like the other children.  Every burned person MUST have a Pressure Suit.

I am still very careful that she does not get sunshine on the scars because I don't want her skin to discolor...other than that, she is back to normal!  I don't know why things like this happen, but I know that God always has a plan and a purpose for everything...we will just have to see what the reason was for this to happen to Alejandra."


          After hearing the mom's account of the accident and treatment, I tried to talk to Alejandra about it.  She told me that even though she was only three, she remembers the accident, the hospital, wearing the Pressure Suit and how hard it was to move around in the beginning.  I could tell that she was going to cry so I stopped talking to her and talked to her mother again.  Her mother said that Alejandra still cannot talk about the accident without crying, but that she wrote her story down in a journal.  Her mother said that Alejandra is not like a normal child...she is always very cautious.  She thinks hard about everything she does and recognizes when something could be dangerous.  Even when her younger sister is playing, Alejandra will stop her and warn her when she is doing something that could hurt her.  So, yes, she has healed physically and her scars look wonderful.  However, after such a traumatizing event, it is hard for many people to ever be the same mentally and emotionally.  You may be healthy, but your life has been changed forever!

     People who are burned need more than just Pressure Suits...they need good nutrition, education on how to care for the burns, physical therapy and to be able to see a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist!!!  However, most people cannot afford much more than the basic hospital bills...

          Alejandra would not have healed well without the help of the Pressure Garment and Burn Care International...please help Burn Care International improve the lives of burned victims all over the world!!!

     Please CLICK HERE to visit BCI's website to learn more about our important ministry.  
-You can DONATE ONLINE by scrolling to the bottom of the website and clicking the DONATE button.  
-Or you can MAIL A CHECK to:  
Burn Care International
419 Woodland Drive
Florence, SC 29501.  

All donations are tax-deductible and will change the life of a burned victim!!!


8 weeks down...4.5 to go...

     As you can tell, I have hit a little bit of writer's block...I seriously have not been able to think of anything to write in a few weeks!!!  The first month we were here, I was busy eating all of the food that I've been missing for years and seeing friends...

     Then February hit.  Nick got sick.  Then, after getting better, he thought he broke his foot playing Wally-Ball (basically indoor Volley Ball where you use the walls).  We couldn't go anywhere for weeks because he had to keep it propped up.  Then, as soon as Nick was feeling 100%, I got sick.  

     Even if all these things hadn't have happened, we still wouldn't have gone out much during February anyway.  When I bought our airline tickets, I totally forgot that February (in Bolivia) is the worst month of the year...CARNAVAL.   It is basically a month full of drunken parties and water fights.  If you are brave enough to venture onto the streets, you are pelted with water balloons and chased down with super soakers...it doesn't matter if you are actually wanting to participate in all the "fun".  There are a lot of Brazilians living in our apartment building and they had a great time owning the sidewalk.  Needless to say, it is all over and I was excited to walk to the store for eggs and butter yesterday without getting wet!!!  It's the little things...right?!?!?!?

Our To Do List
     So, February is almost over...I just have to go to Immigration on Friday to renew my Visa.  I'm sure that will be an experience that I can blog about!  March will be here before we know it and we will only have 27 days left in this country!  

     When we first arrived, Juana, Sandra, Nick and I made a list of all of the restaurants that we have to visit while we are here...as you can see, food is at the top of our priorities list!!!  Seriously, Cochabambinos are known for their amazing food and great appetites...Nick and I fit in very well here.  We just have a few places remaining to hit up before we return to the USA.  

     If you are reading this and you have some suggestions for us, please leave a comment!


Burn Care International - Maciel Fernandez Peredo

Maciel smiled and laughed during our entire visit!!!

"I was burned three years ago, when I was 15 years old.  I was out of town with my family, celebrating Carnival.  We had a fire going and my mom took a bottle of alcohol and poured it onto the fire.  Instantly, the flames leapt towards me!  My arms were on fire and my mom ran at me to help me.  However, she ended up pouring more alcohol on me by accident and then my chest and face caught fire.  My father grabbed the alcohol bottle and threw it and then he pushed my mother away from me.

An ambulance took me from Cipe Cipe to Cochabamba...it was a two hour trip.  I was brought to the Viedma Hospital the same day of my accident.  The childrens' area for burned victims is only for those 14-years-old and below.  I was 15, so I had to go into the adult area.  They were not prepared for me and didn't know that much about burns and how to care for burned patients.  The doctor never came to my room...not even once.  The nurses were cruel and would taunt me about how dumb I was to have been burned by alcohol.  

I was so worried for my mom, dad and sister.  We were all close and I didn't know if they could handle my accident.  They didn't know what to do and my mom felt guilty that it was all her fault.  She had to go to a psychologist to receive treatment.

I had to have skin grafts taken from my legs and put on my arm and chest.  I was in the hospital for two months.  I was released and sent home without any Physical Therapy.  I wasn't told about Pressure Garments.  No one told me about the importance of nutrition.  The doctors didn't give the hospital permission for me to talk to a counselor, psychiatrist or psychologist.  I just went home as I was and returned to school.

I don't have any photos from my accident or burns because my parents didn't want me to see what I looked like.  My parents wouldn't let me look at myself in mirrors, but one night in the hospital, I saw myself in the mirror on the elevator.  I saw that I was missing my eyebrows and and a lot of hair.  

About a month later, I came back to the hospital because I figured out that I needed Physical Therapy.  I couldn't move my neck.  The Physical Therapy hurt so much.  They were stretching my skin every way it could bend.  I would have to go three times a day and I would cry through the entire appointment.  I endured this for about six months.  My Physical Therapy was quicker and easier than many others because I played basketball at school and was very active...this helped my body stay healthy!  I still do Physical Therapy at home in the morning and night...then in the afternoons, I have someone come to my house to help me.

I wore my garment all day every day for two years...only removing it to bathe.  I had to go to the clinic more often in the beginning for Pressure Garment adjustments, but now I just go once per month.  After two years, I stopped wearing my Pressure Garments, but then I went to the USA for more treatments.  I had many things done to my skin to help the scars heal, so I am back to wearing my Pressure Garment all the time again.  I actually feel more like myself with them on.  I was burned and now this is a part of who I am...when I am not wearing my Pressure Garments, I feel uncomfortable and don't like the feeling of my clothes touching my skin.

If I could talk to other patients, I would tell them that Physical Therapy is very hard, but they must do it.  It is for their benefit.  I would tell them that life is good and more precious and now they have a second chance.  They are better now, stronger and they have to accept themselves for who they are and how they look.  I also would tell them that they need someone to talk to...they need to be able to talk about their accident.  Also, patients need to be told what happens after they are burned.  They need to be taught how to care for their bodies, their skin, not to go in the sun, to use creams, to eat good food, etc.  

There are too many people getting burned because they are uneducated.  We should teach them the dangers of gas, fire, electricity and more.  I believe that this can be done through advertisements, posters and TV.  And once someone is burned, hospitals should have staff who are burn survivors that walk around and talk to the patients...the patients need to see that someone else was burned and survived...they need to see that they will also be OK."

  People who are burned need to be treated with kindness and compassion...they need to be given all the necessary tools to heal emotionally and physically...they need much more than what 
Maciel was given!!!

Please help Burn Care International improve the live of burned victims all over the world!!!

     Please CLICK HERE to visit BCI's website to learn more about our important ministry.  You can DONATE ONLINE by scrolling to the bottom of the website and clicking the DONATE button.  Or you can MAIL A CHECK to:  Burn Care International, 419 Woodland Drive, Florence, SC 29501.  All donations are tax-deductible and will change the life of a burned victim!!!


Martin Cordero and Lai Lai

     Another Saturday, another adventure...

     Juana is so funny...every time she has a day off, she says that we have to go on an adventure!  And she LOVES to walk.  So, it has to be something fun that also involves a lot of walking :)

     So, we took a Trufi to the local botanical gardens, Martin Cordero and then walked around :)  It was beautiful and we all wished that we had brought a picnic to enjoy!  There were lots of couples getting to know each other in the park...and lots of people laying around, enjoying the sun and taking naps.  No one in a hurry...so peaceful.

     I was excited because we saw an area for medicinal plants!!!  These are the types of plants that many essential oils come from :)

     Ever since arriving in Cochabamba, we have been on the look out for our favorite ice cream truck.  We finally gave up and forgot about it because none of us knew where it parked now.  As soon as we walked out of the botanical gardens, we passed it!!!  Of course, we stopped and got some HUGE ice cream cones to enjoy on our walk home :)

     After a nice, long Siesta, we went out to have dinner at Lai Lai.  I don't really crave Chinese food...never care too much to eat it.  But, this specific restaurant has always been a favorite of mine.  

     When we were younger, Sandra, my sisters and I LOVED to play on this thing when we ate here.  We would spin around and around until we felt sick...it was SO FUN!!!  I was determined that Sandra and I would take a turn, for old times sake.  It was sad that we could hardly fit ourselves down into those little seats...


STORY OF A BURN SURVIVOR - Harold Torrez Araoz

Meet Harold!!!
He was burned 5 years ago, at the age of 30.     

     "The gas explosion happened when I was at work.  At first, I didn't feel any pain, but I felt so hot.  I pulled off my clothes and noticed that the burned skin had turned white.  My brother ran in to see what happened and ended up not really helping me because he went into shock.  I told him to call our parents and tell them what happened.  The Ambulance came to pick me up and took me to a hospital in Vinto, since I was working 15 kilometers outside of town.  They didn't know what to do with me there, so I was taken to another hospital.  I got there and waited and waited and no one attended me, so I finally went to a 3rd hospital, where I was finally seen.  The accident happened at 2:15 on a Wednesday afternoon and I didn't get taken care of at the hospital until 6pm that night.

     Finally, once the doctors were able to see me, the pain started to kick in.  It's almost like my body was in survival mode until I had help, and then it let go.  It was the most horrible pain you can imagine and it would never stop.  People who are burned a little on their hand while cooking have no idea of the pain of a burn like this.  45% of my body was burned and I spent 3 months in the hospital.  I received skin grafts on my arms, legs and face.  Friends and family would come to visit me and try to cheer me up, but I was so depressed.  I felt guilty that the accident was my fault.  I felt like life wasn't worth living.  I was in pain.  I had horrible nightmares of the accident happening over and over again.  I itched everywhere, but wasn't allowed to scratch.  I saw my skin and how disfigured I looked.  I knew that I would never look like myself again.  

     After 3 months in the hospital, I went to Hospital Viedma for my physical therapy.  It was hard work and very painful since I couldn't bend my elbows, ankles and knees...they didn't want to move.  I had to work hard on my arms, legs, knees and feet to get them moving correctly again...now I move around just like a normal person.  During my time at Hospital Viedma is when I met Juana and got my Pressure Suit.  My suit covered almost my entire body, including my face.  

     I finally got help through psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, family and friends to talk about the trauma that I had experienced.  Each time I spoke about my accident, my whole body would shake and I would cry.  I was still having the nightmares.  But, after getting help and visiting the site of the accident, all of this was gone.  I no longer had the nightmares and I could talk about the experience without the shaking and crying.

    I continued using creams to keep my skin hydrated, along with my Pressure Suit.  I did at home Physical Therapy by following exercise and diet plans that my doctor told me.  I drank lots of protein shakes.  I even went to La Paz to get special treatments that I found while searching the internet.  I wore my Pressure Suit 24/7 for 2 years.  I only took it off to shower.  I had 3 suits so that I would always have a clean one to wear.  Once I began working again, I had 5 Suits...one for each day of the week.  During those 2 years, I was coming back to Juana to get my Suit re-adjusted as it became loose.  At first I would go weekly, then I started going every 15 days.  After 2 years of wearing the complete Suit, I quit wearing my face mask...I wore the rest of the Suit, including the neck piece, for another year.

     After 1.5 years, I was finally able to return to work.  It was hard to get back into the "real world" because of how I look.  I felt good, but I didn't look normal.  Every where I go, people star at me, children are scared of me, my old buddies pass me in the street and don't know who I am.  It is very easy for a burned patient to feel like they are an outcast and there is no reason left to live.  But, the truth is that life goes on.  You learn how to live again.  It is all about what you let yourself believe...it's all mind games.

     I am not afraid of fire, but I am much more careful all of the time now in everything that I do.  I always see how something could be dangerous or turn into an accident and I am very careful.  I always see people doing dangerous things and realize that they don't know any better.  Because of this, I think that people need more of an education.  Children need to be taught in schools.  Hospitals need to tell people.  It should be on TV programs and on signs in the cities.  There should be campaigns.  I was burned because I didn't know that what I was doing was dangerous...I wouldn't have done that if someone had educated me.

     Burned patients need a lot of support.  It isn't just being treated at the hospital and going through Physical Therapy.  They need someone to talk to.  They need to meet burned victims who survived and can tell them that they will be ok.  They need hope!  They also need something to keep their mind off of the pain.  I was burned in 2010 during the World Cup, so I laid in my hospital bed and watched every single game.  I love soccer, so I didn't feel pain during the games.  But, as soon as a game would end or the TV would go to commercials, I would remember the pain and be in agony.  To have an accident like this is terrible...it is hard to get back up again, but you can do it.  There is always someone out there who will help you...sometimes it may just be someone that you don't even know."

  Harold and thousands of others need our help!!!

     Please CLICK HERE to visit Burn Care International's website to learn more about our important ministry.  You can DONATE ONLINE by scrolling to the bottom of the website and clicking the DONATE button.  Or you can MAIL A CHECK to:  Burn Care International, 419 Woodland Drive, Florence, SC 29501.

All donations are tax-deductible and will change the life of a burned victim!!!