Mia was enjoying her senior year at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV and getting ready for her typical Sunday activities, meeting with her Alpha Xi Delta sorority sisters and studying at the library for an upcoming exam. Mid-day rolled around and Mia decided to grab a snack with her roommate, Lindsay. Fried pickles sounded like the perfect treat, but things would quickly go awry.
When Mia heated the oil, an accident occurred that resulted in her being burned with 3rd degree burns on 13.5% of my body. Mia’s hands, neck, breasts, and right forearm, bicep, and shoulder were injured, along with burns on her thighs and ankle. The undamaged skin on her lower limbs was later used for her grafts.
Lindsay was quick to react, along with Mia’s other sorority sister, Sierra, driving to Pittsburgh immediately when Mia was airlifted to the hospital there. In true best friend fashion, they got in the car to drive without even knowing fully what was going on and they stayed while Mia’s family arrived. Mia’s best friends continued to visit throughout her entire hospital stay.
Mia recalls that her physical recovery was horrible at first and she was eager to leave the hospital. She spent ten days in the ICU before pretending the pain was manageable, hoping that they would discharge her. She had great difficulty moving her hands again because of the burns across her joints. Walking was also difficult, but thankfully she felt much better once she began moving about again.
Her hand pain lingered due to nerve damage. Mia’s emotional recovery may have been harder than her physical recovery. She had a hard time looking at her face in the mirror and was upset to learn that she would not move her hands again. Her face had several scars that she worried would worsen and she lost half her hair, but she was grateful that her naturally thick hair made the hair loss less noticeable. She also struggled to wear the uncomfortable pressure garments and felt insecure about wearing gloves and a turtleneck all the time. She longed to be 21, having fun, dressing cute, and doing the things her college friends were doing.
Mia states, however, “Eventually I got over it because I had the most amazing friends with me the whole time including the night of the injury when they followed my helicopter from Morgantown to Pittsburgh.”
Mia reflects that surviving a burn injury “really stinks and is super
unlikely, but it’s a really scary thing that takes a lot of time to move past.” Her injury occurred about a year ago, so her physical healing is essentially complete but her emotional healing continues. Mia suggests that “people need to understand that I want to move past it.” In these early stages of her emotional healing, she finds herself talking about the accident and her injury, unexpectedly at times, and appreciates the help of friends in moving the conversation beyond those topics.
Mia’s greatest accomplishment since her injury has been finding her
professional passion, Financial Advising, and taking the steps to make that career happen. She met the VP of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Advisors who offered an interview with the company; Mia seized the opportunity to turn that chance meeting into a paid internship and a job offer after graduation.
Mia no longer hides her scars. She learned when working outside of the university environment that people did not comment on her scars in rude ways or stare at her, so she became more comfortable with her appearance. Her hope is that sharing her story can help someone else struggling with their
recovery and healing. Mia reminds us that “even if the burns aren’t the same or in the same spots, you will over time realize it is still the same type of trauma. I met a Burn Survivor while I was in the hospital, but she only burned her back, and I was actually mad that she was trying to relate her back to my visible face, neck, breasts and hands. However, over time I kept thinking back to her story and recovery and realized the similarities.”
Mia’s senior year of college did not turn out as she expected, but she notes that everything happens for a reason, and for her “it all worked out for the best.”