by Kandy Kane
This was for school, the prompt stated we had to write about a life changing experience.
| "But Dad!" I protested. My father and I were sitting in his car, arguing about why he believed it was too dangerous for me to be walking along Rt. 139 with my friends.
"Absolutley not!" he said sternly. "At one point, the sidewalk ends, and it's too easy for a car to come by an clip you! It's not safe!"
At this point, I was beyond frustrated. Why was he so strict? Without really thinking, I blurted out "What's the worst that happens? I get hit by a car and die? Well maybe it'll happen dad. You can't try and protect me from every single one of lifes dangers."
My father, a Lieutenant on the Boston Fire Department, grew a very serious look in his eyes as he said "Why don't you skip camp tommorow? Come up to the Shriners burn unit with me. My crew's doing a Christmas in July for these kids, giving out toys and stuff. You might just learn that there are worst things than dying."
I was very surpised at this. I've heard of several organizations and chairty events my father worked on for the kids at this hospital, but I've never been asked to volunteer. I agreed to go, half nervous, and half curious. I honestly had no idea what he could prove by this. Little did i know, that this would be a lesson I needed to know.
The next morning my father and I drove to Boston. It was sort of awkward and silent on the ride there. About half way there my father broke the silence and said "I'ma lay down some guidlines for you, just some things not to do. First off, what you see might be scary. Actually, you are my CSI child. You'd probably find it a bit more on the interesting side. However, it's important that you don't stare at these kids, or show any disgust at their looks. They'll be quite disfigured and scarred, but imagine how it would make them feel to see you looking at them like that."
I hadn't really thought about this too much. I've seen burn victims before, so nothing too surprising there. I nodded my head, and I started to get more anxious than before.
When we arrived at the firehouse, my dad said hello to his friends. We stopped at this place around the corner for a bite to eat while more guys showed up. When we returned to the station, there were about 13 or so fireman standing there, talking and laughing, not seeming nervous at all. Then, arounf the corner of a truck came one of the other guys dressed in a full Santa costume. I'll give him credit for wearing that thing in the middle of July, I said to myself. As we all walked around the corner to the hospital, I started to feel sick. I'm not much for the blood and guts type, and what if I couldn't handle seeing people like this?
At first when we walked into the lobby, I was given a name tag and asked to use some Purell. A nurse, who looked like she was running on only about 3 hours of sleep, came in and handed Santa a wagon filled with gifts, then rushed away busily. And, as if right on cue, the elevator doors opened, and about 6 little kids nervously walked in behind their parents, who were being led by a nurse. Sl9owly but surely, the kids made their way across the lobby to Santa. They didn't look too bad, as I thought they would. Just a few facial scars here and there, maybe some gauze wrapped around a limb or two. I was starting to get comfortable when my dad whispered "These are the kids that are healthy enough to leave their rooms. They've been here awhile. The worse victims are a few floors up.
I watched gifts being given out, and pictures being taken for a bit. We then went upstairs. At this point, "Santa" has stopepd giving out gifts, and nurses in fully sterile suits cautiously handed them to the patients. I couldn't really see any of them, they were all blocked by big machines, and I'd wondered if this had been done on purpose. I saw a very tiny boy, maybe two or three, happily pedaling his way down the hallways on his new tricycle that he had gotten. It broke my heart because I saw his beaming ambition, and wondered what he would've been like if he hadn't of been wrapped in gauze from head to toe. I glanced into another room, and saw an Indian girl lying in a bed, reading. She heard the noise from outside her room, and looked out. She was about my age. I smiled at her, and I saw her eyes light up as she smiled back. She was all alone, with no family. What made me sad was that I was probably the only person that would smile at her all day. We came to the end of the hall, and there was one last room left, the room of Julia Rose Young. My dad had told me about this girl/ He had said that she was 16 years old from New Jersey, and she was at a campfire with her friends when she threw what she thought was water at the fire to calm it.
Turns out, it was gasoline.
She was covered with burns on 80 percent of her body. For the last year she had been forced to live in a bubble, while everyday doctors painfully picked away layers of dead skin from her body, careful to avoid infection. There was a picture of her, before the accident, hanging up outside her room. She was beautiful. As the nurse walked in her room, I wasn't really sure what I was looking at. It looked like a skeleton wrapped with burnt pizza, and covered in gauze at the top. No hair, no skin. She then turned her head, and for no longer than three seconds I stood there, in the hallway, caught deep in her eyes. I felt her pain, her suffering. I felt her silently screaming a cry of misery, a plea to god to end this. It was so terrible that the beautiful girl in the picture could end up like this. She'd no longer have a normal life. She had lost everything. As the nurse shut the curtain to her room, It slowly sunk in that this was my fathers worst nightmare.
It took me a while, but I realized that my dad was right. He'd just been trying to protect me with the things he has to live with everyday. He knows. and now I knew, that anything can happen to me in life. I could be at a campfire with friends, and the next morning wake up and not recognize who I was. However, this didn't make me scared of life. This taught me that everything is precious, and that nothing should be taken for granted. I should value the people I have in my life, and understand that they're just trying to protect me. I still have that image of Julia in my head, and I probably always will. I consider it a reminder tha teverything you have in life can be taken away just like that, without any warning.