When I was six years old. In August, that summer, over a quarter of a century ago...
I slipped and fell into a hot spring, and burned the lower half of my body. I was wearing shoes and socks at the time. I have a permanent sock scar, staple scar, and another, secondary burn (from a motorcycle exhaust) on top of the original scarring on my legs. It was the early 90's, and they used pig skin to build my feet back up. They took large, rectangular sections of my skin, from both my outer thighs, and graphed it onto my feet. At the time, pig skin was the closest thing to human skin. The scarring occurred because my skin did not recognize it as its own and rejected it.
You may have heard the story, that I am a miracle. Yes, I almost died. I did not know, however, the fear of death, at the age of six. What I did know, was that I did not want to fold laundry that day. Or any day. Folding laundry was my least favorite thing to do at the time. Now I enjoy folding my own laundry (post-military). Nobody else is touching it, you know? So, on that day, I was pissed. I was so angry that my Mom was making me fold laundry, my least favorite chore, that I went outside; in the middle of nowhere, outside of town, where water (hotter than boiling) came up, out of the Earth, and was captured in a concrete pool, which was not fenced-in at the time. I decided to disobey my Mother, who had instructed me never to go near that concrete pool of hot-spring water. I climbed up, and started walking around the edge.
As all children might have, I wondered to myself, "what would happen if I stepped on that piece of moss"? I continued to walk around the edge of the spring. My cousins had just gone back inside the apartment. So I stepped on it. And I slipped. And I fell in. And I jumped back out. And I ran back up the steps. And my Mom saw me and rushed me into the bathroom. She started the cold shower running and peeled off my clothes. The skin peeled off with the clothes. But she saved my life. The cold, running, shower-water saved my life. My Aunt called the hospital. It was the middle of nowhere. They drove me 10 miles into town, screaming.
My Mom's good friend, and my second Mother, saved my life that day as well. She dressed my burns as best she could, while we waited for the chopper. I'm pretty sure I was blacked out during that time period. I only remember flashes from the backseat of that helicopter. She did more than your typical RN's duties that day. She handled my Mom's delicate psychology and kept her conscience during this emergency crisis. My Aunt was back at the apartment, watching my cousins and brand new younger sister.
That is my thigh, above my knee, where they took the skin graphs. You can see the meshing of the pig skin.
This little spot, on the top of my knee, feels cool. :-) Water splashed up and scarred my thigh here. The scarring goes all the way up. I have a splash mark close to the goods, but I am still able to have children. Luckily the goods were left, undamaged.
And, finally, (below) you can see the white scarring from a burn on top of a burn.
I almost went to the hospital again, for this one. But, I managed to dress and treat myself for two weeks before it started to heal properly. Originally, I spent three months, that summer, in the burn unit. I was under intensive care. The doctors told my Mother I probably would not live. The guy next to me in the burn ward died. I did not know what death was. He was just gone one day. Just like the diabetic, down the hall. He was there for awhile. He would always lament that the next body part he was going to lose, would be his head. Then, one day, he was gone. They had me on morphine. And boy did I see angels! I really, really did see angels. They protected me. They were very large, and I described them to my Mother as very real. I will never forget them, to this day.
My Mother always had a copy of this famous painting on the wall at home. She believes in angels too. An angel or two, certainly saved my life that day. We speculate they were the ones to pull me out of the hot spring so fast, my guardian angels.
I lived. I live. Yes, my childhood was rough, but so was everyone elses. I was always taught to live every day like it was your last. To appreciate the moment. I was still told, "it could always be worse" (Lol). And so, I thought myself bad-ass enough to join the military in 2009, when I was out of work, at the height of the recession. I worked in the manufacturing and production industry at the time. I had been laid off, in a small town in Oregon, with no hope of finding more. So I decided to join the military. The Army National Guard, is what I settled on, proudly.
They took me in. The bottom of my feet are a normal size, just skinny and narrow. I fitted a men's size 7W boots. Maybe a got a few looks in the shower, but everyone left me alone. I did not have to try hard to be bad-ass, though, that is for sure; I just was. My military enlistment was long, and very much left me feeling like a man. Which, do not get me wrong, I liked playing tomboy, but it did begin to wear on me at the end. I had shaved my head going into boot camp, and I had never grown it out past my chin, because it was easier to maintain the standard that way. Also, I have a flat chest. The bulky tops made me look even more manly. Eventually, however, that time of my life ended too. And then I discovered modeling.
Credit: Adubi Imagery
I did not believe that I would ever become a model. Models were always stunning and perfect. And now I am! Can you believe it? Even after everything that I experienced, I was beautiful again! So, the moral of the story is that, if you can put your mind to it, anything is possible! (Plus, technology) ;-)