Here is the second installment from our new blogger and fire sprinkler advocate Cindy Rutter, who was burned in a home fire when she was six years old:
Growing up with burns on more than 85 percent of my body was not easy. Since kids made fun of me for many years, I wore clothing—turtleneck shirts and long pants, even during the summer—to conceal all of my burns, my face being the exception. Even after these attempts, people were ruthless in their staring and comments. I eventually become very thick-skinned and, with the support of my family, began to ignore the comments and stares, though the feeling of being inside a fishbowl never completely goes away.
I soon realized that my injuries were going to be a lifelong process, that my scars would never go away. I kept wondering how I could use what happened to me to better the lives of others. Accepting my reality sent me on a new journey of self-discovery.
At the age of 18 I began volunteering for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, an organization in Sherman Oaks, California, that helped burn survivors. While working as a medical assistant, I decided that I wanted to become a burn unit nurse. The job would be my way of giving back. I wasn’t a scholarly high school student and was discouraged by many who told me I wouldn’t make it through nursing school. However, I got accepted and excelled. I had found my calling and my passion. While in nursing school I went to work in the burn unit at St. Mary’s Hospital in Tucson, Arizona, as a burn technician. I felt like I was where I belonged.
I was also excelling in my personal life. I got married and had two daughters. Due to my burn injury, I was told I would not be able to carry a pregnancy to term but I did—twice! My daughters in turn gave me two amazing grandchildren. I also have an incredible son-in-law. I do not know what my life would be without all of them.
While working in the burn unit in 1980 there was an article posted on the bulletin board about the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors and Alan Breslau, the organization’s founder. Little did I know then how this organization would completely change my life and would send me on another trajectory.
Stay tuned for the third and final installment from Rutter. If you have a compelling story about being injured or impacted by a home fire, please let us know.