A few days ago Debbie Wood was in line at the Post Office.
A man in line behind her commented rather loudly, and rudely, that she should have stayed home … that people didn’t want to see people like her in public. He was, undoubtedly, referring to the very visible scars she carries from having suffered third degree burns to 95 per cent of her body when she was just a toddler.
For Debbie, however, the comments weren’t anything she hadn’t heard before. For her, the scars are just part of who she is. She told the man that she would love to stay at home if he would would pay all her bills for her. Even still, she says, she wasn’t raised that way. She has not only survived being burned, she has thrived. She got married, raised a couple of kids, and works at Dulux Paints in Prince George to help pay those bills.
Self-admittedly a little bit bull-headed, she doesn’t put up with derogatory comments about what happened to her and is more than willing to tell her story hopes of raising awareness and funds for the BurnFund and the Hometown Heroes Lottery.
Never Give Up – My story began on January 6, 1966. I was two-and-a-half years old and really wanted to bake a cake with my Mum. She was seven-and-a-half months pregnant with German measles and very sick so suggested we both have a nap before baking the cake.
I waited for her to fall asleep and then got up and pushed a chair up against the stove. Leaning on the burners I was turning the knobs on and off not knowing which one was for the oven, when my pajamas caught on fire.
In the A-frame wartime house my parents owned you had to go through the living room to get to the bathroom. The living room had a floor to ceiling picture window in it. The lady across the street who was shovelling her sidewalk saw a streak of flames run by as I went to sit in the bathtub and she quickly called the fire department. When they arrived they had to kick the door open as the door had been locked to find me in the bathtub playing in the water.
They took me out of the tub and wrapped me in a foil blanket and poured something on me to stop the heat from doing more damage and off to the hospital I went.
I suffered third degree burns to 95 per cent of my body and was in a lot of pain. My first operation was the next day to disconnect my arms from my sides, which were burned together at my armpit. For two weeks I was kept in a coma to keep me out of pain.
When I was conscious I had to manage dressing changes twice a day as well as dead skin removal. It is hard to tell a two-and-a-half year old that brushing with a wire brush to get the dead skin of is good for you when you are in so much pain.
I was in the hospital for my third birthday and Christmas that year for several other operations, but Santa still knew where I was because he came and gave me and all the other kids Christmas presents.
I remember my older sister and Dad would come and see me in the hospital; my Mum was there all the time. Anyone that came to see me had to put on the green hat, gown, booties, mask and gloves. They only made one size of gown and all the same length. I remember every time my sister came in she would trip on her gown which would give me a laugh that helped to deal with the pain.
For three years I remained in the hospital and started kindergarten in the hospital. When I went to a real school I would not go unless I had a new dress! I picked this dress that looks like it was make out of sofa material – orange and brown UGLY.
That is when my hell started for 12 years; SCHOOL. In the beginning the small kids stayed away from all the time looking and pointing at me. As the years went by they would made fun of me and call me names. In high school I was hoping that they would take time to get to know me but most of them used me for their own unkind fun.
There was this one guy who for four years always had a new name for me every day until one day he was not there. I went to the teacher and ask were he was, she told me that he and his Dad were out camping and he was filling up a lantern and some gas got on his pants and caught on fire when he lit the lantern. I had to go to the hospital and see him. It was my turn to put the green garb on; it was hard but I did it. When I walked in he said that now he knew how I felt with all the name-calling and we have been friends ever since.
I would be lying to you if I told you that I never thought about killing myself once or twice. I was at my lowest point in my live when this man came into my life and when he asked me to marry him, I said yes even before he could get the whole question out.
In our third year of marriage we had our son, Mitchell. I named my son after the only boy in high school that didn’t make fun of me. When Mitchell was about six months old that was when the marriage took a very negative turn as my husband said that he was sick of looking at my burned up body, he “wanted a real woman.”
That is when killing myself came back into my mind, but I had a baby to think about. After a brief separation I became pregnant with our daughter Kathleen, but the negative situation remained with verbal and physical abuse that was devastating. After years of someone telling you that you are no good that no other man would ever want you – you believe it!
When the abuse eventually touched my young son’s life I moved to Prince George with my Dad’s help to start a new live for the three of us on Feb. 1 1992.
I’m glad that I had my Dad and step Mum there to help me when I needed them. For the first two years all I did was stay home and raise my kids. I then moved up to the Hart because my daughter got asthma and the air on the Hart is better then in town were we were living. The kids started school and I got to know some of the Mums and we would go for coffee after we dropped the kids at school. We would talk about anything and everything. This friendship that I’ve never had before meant the world to me and made me feel like a normal person.
I have gone through about 30 to 40 operations since knowing Trevor who is always there! In my lifetime I have had 428 operations but I also have two beautiful children who are 30 and 29 years old and a beautiful four-year-old granddaughter that came out of this ordeal.
To make a long story short: DON’T GIVE UP ON YOURSELF, YOU WERE PUT ON THIS EARTH FOR A REASON ,YOU SURVIVED FOR A REASON.YOU HAVE TO LOVE YOURSELF BEFORE ANYONE ELSE CAN. I KNOW FROM MY OWN LIFE . TRUST ME YOU WILL FIND SOMEONE THAT WILL LOVE YOU FOR WHO YOU ARE AND FORGET WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE. MY GRANDMA ALWAYS SAID TO ME YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF FROGS BEFORE YOU WILL FIND YOUR PRINCE. I FOUND MINE AND SO WILL YOU!