UPDATE: I'm realizing more and more that my parents are superheroes. After starting a family of my own, I can now look back and recognize the sacrifices my parents made and the difficulties they had to overcome.
When I just four weeks old I suffered second and third degree burns to my leg. My mom and dad spent days and even weeks in the hospital over the years, taking care of me during my many surgeries. Now that I'm a mom and I can understand the heartbreak and devastation of watching your child in pain, I'm so immensly proud of how strong and resilient my parents were when I was burned.
Ten years after completing high school, my father became a full-time student again to get his college degree, while my mother worked to support them. During his junior year, my parents found out they were having their first child—me!
I was born in October and my dad was scheduled to graduate in May of the following year, which meant my mom needed to return to work until his graduation. They began searching for someone to watch after me while they were away during the day.
As typical first-time parents, they interviewed prospective candidates extensively, made sure to call references, and, of course, sought the advice and guidance of family and friends to ensure they were making the wisest possible choice. They selected a mature sitter who chose to care for just one infant at her home each year.
But the very first time my parents ever left me, when I was four weeks old, my life and my family’s lives were forever changed.
My caretaker had been instructed to warm the small bottle of breast milk by placing it under warm, running water or to set it inside a glass of warm water - gradually warming the frozen milk to room temperature and to preserve the beneficial properties of the breast milk. However, she was accustomed to using boiling water for warming bottles and, because the small bottle only contained a few ounces of breast milk, it immediately toppled over in the boiling water. While holding me in her arms, she picked up the pot of water to pour it in the sink and retrieve the bottle of milk, but in her haste, the boiling water was spilled directly onto my left leg.
My cloth diaper and clothing were immediately soaked, holding in the heat, quickly adhering to my entire leg. Unfortunately, the sitter’s first reaction was to remove them, which only made matters worse. That only made things worse. I include this part of the story in case others encounter a similar situation. The proper protocol is to run cool water over the burned area (if water isn’t available, any cold, drinkable fluid can be used) or hold a clean, cold cloth on the burn.
Because burns are easily infected, I spent the next week of my life in isolation at the hospital, where it was determined that my burns were 2nd and 3rd degree. I received regular doses of morphine to control the pain and my first of several surgeries was scheduled for Day 4 of my hospital stay.
My parents never left my side, asked lots of questions, and learned all they could about the treatment of burns. Naturally, they were fraught with fear, but they had to trust that the doctors and medical staff were doing all they could to provide the best possible care for their precious baby girl.
Now that I'm old enough to fully understand the severity of the situation, I'm so proud of my parents. There were many sleepless nights in the hospital (and when we returned home), the fear of the unknown then and for my future, how my leg would ultimately heal, the anger toward the responsible party, etc. but they fought through and were strong for me.
In the photos below, you see my father holding me on his chest and then my mother rocking me in the chair. The emotional toll it had to take on them watching their daughter suffer in so much pain, and yet, with the good Lord's strength, they were able to be strong throughout this journey and do what was required for me to heal. I can't even imagine how hard that had to be on them.
Over the next 18 years, several additional surgeries were required, which meant growing up I was in a wheelchair or using crutches, wearing compression garments, and quickly learning that I’m not a fan of hospitals, anesthesia, or the removal of stitches and staples!
Growing up in Texas, we spent a lot of time at the pool and I remember being so ashamed of wearing a swimsuit because everyone would be able to see my scars. I wore longer shorts to the pool constantly to cover part of my leg. I dreaded the questions - "what happened?" "what's that?" - as if I were a monster. My beautiful mom (in the photo above & below, rocking that 90's style!) always reminded me that I'm tough as nails and my scars have only made me stronger and more beautiful as a woman. And after many years of her repeating this, I eventually realized she was right. There was nothing to be ashamed of, scars and all, I'm still beautifully made in the image of God. I'm so grateful that my body has fully healed, the incisions are far less noticeable and I'm alive and well today with no more surgeries in sight! Now, I don't even think about my scars when I put on a swimsuit or wear shorts, it's just a part of who I am.
All to say, celebrate whatever it is that makes you different, embrace your quirks, your scars - your beauty marks. They are what make you, you. And no one else can ever be that.
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