Burn Survivor Fire

The contents of this site is not intended to be legal advice. Visiting this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you seek legal representation, please contact me directly at www.capf.com or by phone at 727-442-2872.

I'm licensed to practice law in the State of Florida.

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"am I really burned?...because that would be ridiculous"

**Drafts: Summary (up to being burned) and an Outline (age 8 through 9th grade)** burn injury 1976, photo 1989


Tie photo -- 1 month before burns -- 12th birthday 13 months post burns -- 7 years post burns -- 12 years post burns -- 16 years post burns -- 21 years post burns -- 21 years post burns -- 24 years post burns -- 29 years post burns -- My Image -- burn survivor
 

Unedited Random Thoughts From My Personal Diary--

 

I'm feeling a little guilty linking this site to my law practice site; but now that I'm a practicing Florida attorney I can do more than just relate my own personal story, I can try to help other burn survivors and families navigate the hurdles associated with burns. I've been fortunate with my opportunities, but the reality is many burn survivors are victims of missed opportunities because of their burn scars and misconceptions people have about abilities and appearance, which lead to otherwise unintentional discrimination. I'm being polite.

### Several weeks ago I was dumbfounded when a store clerk expressed his perception I had been burned in a methamphetamine lab explosion fire. I wonder how many people jump to that conclusion these days. And then there is this news article today, "AP IMPACT: Meth fills hospitals with burn patients." I suppose I should give the pharmacy clerk some credit for recognizing what parts of the body are most affected: "What's more, meth-related burns often sear some of the body's most sensitive areas - the face and hands.
"I don't think a lot of these patients will be able to re-enter society, said Dr. Lucy Wibbenmeyer of the burn center at the University of Iowa. "They'll need rehab therapy, occupational therapy, which is very expensive.""

### Age is catching up with me. After 35 years of burn injury pain-free life, my left arm with scars that go completely around my forearm is aching most of the time. It's as if the scar band is cutting into the muscle, restricting blood flow, and throbbing pain. It's my favorite left arm so I'm not too happy about this situation. Historically, the skin on my forearm does not glide over the muscle and is very tight; pinching the skin is like pinching the muscle directly. Compounding the situation is my lack of health insurance, which leaves me to my own care consisting of exercise, eating well, and adequate sleep, and generally try to stay mentally healthy, but organic approach really is no replacement for good medical care. I should note than I am foretunate my father is a doctor affording me liberal access to medical advice, but there are limitations (more limitations than the average person would expect).

### This article from August 16, 2011, "Americans With Disabilities Experiencing Record Unemployment Rate" completely ignores burn victims who have not been hired because of their "perceived disability" when in fact there is no disability. Of course, when you're treated as disabled but are in fact not disabled, there is no recourse. Yes, the ADA (ADAAA) and EEOC explicitly* covers burn victims as a "protected class," but in real life people have a difficult time grasping how a "perceived disability" has any real harm. I'll write more about this (not an easy topic): since 2005 I've been an "unemployed librarian" by trade, and I say unemployed librarian because I've applied to nearly every entry-level librarian opening within 100 miles of Tampa Bay Florida, and though I've had several interviews (and job offers) nothing has materialized (even the job offer was retracted after I accepted). During one interview the library director would not even maintain eye contact or shack my hand, and finally the reason I was not offered the position was that they didn't think I was a "good fit" with the library. Whatever that means. I filed a complaint with the county HR, and the response was the director is a well respected professional, and that perhaps I should work on my interviewing skills. And for a complete waste of time, I filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations. The FCHR's refused to make a determination because I could not explain what "major life activity" was impaired, which is exactly the point--there is no major life impairment: I've been "regarded as having" or "perceived disabled" when in fact I'm not disabled. See, ADAAA Section 12102 (3)(A). Also see this excellent law review article by Dale Larson, "Unconsciously Regarded As Disabled: Implicit Bias and the Regarded-As Prong of the Americans with Disabilities Act."

At times, I feel as if my adult career has been defined by applying to job openings, but that really wouldn't be very accurate (memorable interview experiences). I will say I've always had a difficult time closing the interview in Florida versus DC or Chicago, where if I made it to an interview almost certainly I was offered the position. Florida, not so, the interview is the kiss of death. There's an idea in Florida that there is always a better candidate, and definitely one not burned. This is, of course, is a generalization of Florida business practices. Also, at my current age I could be experiencing age discrimination, or even "over-educated" discrimination. I mean really, who wants a librarian with a juris doctorate degree and two decades of frontline customer experience in the demanding Information Technology field?

* "For example, persons with severe burns often encounter discrimination in community activities, resulting in substantial limitation of major life activities. These persons would be covered under this test based on the attitudes of others towards the impairment, even if they did not view themselves as "impaired."" 28 CFR Part 35, 1992

Some questions I was asked recently:

Does all that hurt?

The quick answer is “no,” but it is an incomplete answer. I’m guilty of that response more often than I’d like to acknowledge.

Are you burned in your dreams?

Usually not, but I’ve have several dreams where I was cognizant that I was burned. Very odd to have any scars on my body within dreams. I very well could be burned in my dreams and it’s just not a very significant aspect of the dream realm. Though, the few dreams I’ve had where I am burned have surprised me. It like, “Wow, I’m burned. Didn’t know that.” Of the nearly 13,000 days that I’ve lived with burn scars, I’ve only had a handful of dreams that find me actually burned. I’m not sure of the implications; I’ve not studied dreams.

Why do you have hair growing in unusual places?

During the placement of full and split-thickness skin grafts many of my hair follicles came along for the relocation.

Why is your bottom lip different from mine?

My bottom lip is a combination of full-thickness skin graft and the inside of my mouth pulled out to make a lip. It is very stiff most of the time and quite in-tune with the weather conditions: dry and cracked during low humidity, and softer and pliable when humid. Depending on the rigidness of the lip my annunciation of words can be quite off at times. Very embarrassing. I’m still attempting to train myself not to apologize and just keep on talking.

I'll work on expanding the list and my responses.

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Thank you to those that have written thanking me for the site -- it is quite rewarding for me.

Books by or about Burn Survivors

Please consider checking out these books from other Burn Survivors:

Some of these titles are about the author's burn experience; and another section will have books authored by burn survivors not about burns at all.  

 

I'm always in the process of redesigning the web site; again, any suggestions are welcome. Also, the Resources Page was updated with some info about burn survivor Robert Timberg, the author/biographer of several books on the Vietnam War and John McCain, and another burn survivor is the author of The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls (blog interview about her book).

For anyone that visits this site regularly, I've finally realized that I'm not going to make any progress continuing to dicker with updates that add no real value. This project is about being burned, and it is about me, and my accomplishments, and as delusional as this sounds, I’m not burned--that’s not who I am. Sure there are photos that show scars and ill fitting clothes (the daily struggle of uncomfortable clothing), but other than that you’d be hard pressed to find testimonials from my friends, co-workers, and family that would think to mention, “oh yeah, the burned guy.” Now, I'm sure they would say something like, “he needs to lose a little weight,” or “he talks a lot, but he does listen.” So, this site is best just a simple and perhaps cursory view of me than something in-depth.

Here’s the beginning words of my forthcoming book:

He died. It was a crisp chilly Thanksgiving morning in north Florida on Lake Geneva in a blazing cabin fire that took his identity. The ten year boy reading Green Lantern comics the night before was gone.

His life had been pretty amazing, and perhaps it was appropriate that it ended eloquently in a cabin, his life exploding into fire from the ignition of gasoline vapor from a one gallon fuel can, which a moment before appeared picture perfect in his hands, very much like one of those old glossy magazine ads for Coleman camping gear, and the next moment a crumbled piping hot charred wreck of metal that a bored hitchhiker wouldn’t bother to kick if found on the roadside.

That, perhaps, may be the total extent to which I mention being burned. I’m still working on the format. [update--that book is dead!]

The timing of this site's debut marks the 30th anniversary of being burned by a gasoline can explosion in a cabin on Lake Geneva, Florida on a very cold Thanksgiving morning in 1976. I was burned over fifty percent of my body, including my face, and was treated at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, and then at the Shriners in Boston. I was ten years old at the time of the accident.

During the last thirty years, I've lived a rather exciting and mundane life, and that is what this site is about--it's About Being Normal.

Here are pictures [1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s] in chronological order depicting my appearance over the years. However, here are photographs I have taken of things I've found interesting over the years.

Here's a short list of some facts about me:

  • I love tennis; surfing, and working outdoors; Did I mention tennis?
  • My father was working in the ER I was taken after I was burned;
  • I earned both a master's degree and a juris doctorate degree;
  • I created the first USO Internet web site (uso.org);
  • My mother died from a brain tumor (brain cancer) two years before I was burned;
  • After being burned the first hurdle I conquered was taking fresh baked chocolate cookies out of the oven;
  • I really could live my entire life wearing nothing but shorts;
  • I would like to think I'm creative, but this site clearly reflects otherwise;
  • I'm 1/32nd Creek Indian (Florida);
  • I once had an engaging conversation with Barbara Bach;
  • I'm an avid writer, but I have nothing to say...

Shriners Burns Hospital, Boston Unit
Shands at the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL

Send any questions or comments to: christopherfitts at yahoo.com

Christopher Fitts

 

Stories and Memories : Law School - Career - Music - Stories - Family Life - Self Worth - Poetry - Job Interviews

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Burn Survivors in the News, and Burn Related Tidbits: Click Here for Articles. Burn Survivor Projects

Celebrity Burn Survivors and Famous Fictional Burn Characters

The Atlantic Online | June 2009 | What Makes Us Happy? [case studies of normal people living normal lives]

Who links to my website? [Nobody really links to a site like this.]

Copyright 2006-2013 Christopher Fitts. All rights reserved. (I could place disclaimers all over this site about all the burn survivors who are or were much worse off than I, so please keep in mind I’m not callous to the range of damage burns inflict on a person, and if I let my empathy for others overwhelm I’d never be able to create this site.)


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