Doctors from Vancouver General Hospital’s burn unit didn’t expect White Rock’s Diane Gardner to survive.
It was 1978. Gardner was in the cabin of a 40-foot boat, docked in Campbell River to refuel. She was 16 years old.
Unbeknownst to her, there was an broken fuel line on the boat, and 400 gallons of gasoline was exposed.
The engine turned over and the boat exploded, hurling Gardner 20 feet from the cabin off the aft of the boat, into the water.
She was pulled out and rushed to the local hospital, while her skin, she said, was “hanging off my body in shreds, like streamers.”
She was then flown to the burn unit at Vancouver General Hospital. She had second- and third-degree burns on 90 per cent of her body and ended up spending three months in hospital.
Gardner now uses her story to highlight the importance of the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund.
If only the fund was available when she was burned. Coincidentally, it was started the same year of her injury.
Watch Gardner describe what happened that day in 1978:
Although the explosion happened in a matter of seconds, Gardner said the impact is a “lifelong journey.”
“Burns are not just the pain, disfigurement and injury itself. It’s the emotional and psychological injury. I kind of believe if you don’t deal with things, those will come back to haunt you,” she told Peace Arch News Friday.
After Gardner healed, she “got on with my life,” and incredibly, was able to graduate high school with her friends. She went on to study at Simon Fraser University, graduating with a degree in communications before spending many years working for an advertisement agency.
With a glowing smile, she spoke of the support and programs made possible through the burn fund, including an adult program of suvivors and a kids’ summer camp.
“I don’t even have words to describe it. It just fills my heart, it’s come such a long way,” she said.
The most significant aspect, she said, is speaking to others who experienced a similar injury.
“It really gave me courage to wear my injuries and a scars like a badge of honour.”
A chance interaction with another burn survivor, in a Penticton Starbucks seven years ago, had planted a seed.
Despite Gardner not having visible scars, a woman working at the coffee shop grabbed her and recognized that she was a burn survivor. The woman, a survivor herself, asked Gardner if the two could speak after her shift.
The woman explained the burn fund and its programs.
“It was life changing,” she said. “That was a long time ago. But again, a burn injury is a lifelong thing, it’s not just an injury and you get over it.”
Gardner has been selected to attend the Canadian Burn Survivors Conference in Halifax this June. The event will come to Vancouver in 2020.
“I’m honoured, and really excited to see what I’m going to learn.”
Gardner shared her story of survival in the backyard of a Hometown Heroes Lottery prize home.
Proceeds of lottery ticket sales go toward specialized adult health services and research at VGH and UBC Hospital, GF Strong Rehab Centre, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and Vancouver Community Health Services. Funds also support the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund.
To learn more about the 2018 Hometown Heroes Lottery, and to purchase tickets, visit https://heroeslottery.com/
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