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!!!

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