Young burn victims gather for comfort and good times at B.C. burn camp
Emily Stass (l) and Nazirn Collins at an event to kick off Burn Camp 2017 for child victims of burns at Ambleside Park in West Vancouver BC., July 13, 2017. (NICK PROCAYLO/PostMedia)
Emily Stass, of Nelson, and Nazira Collins of East Vancouver are both 11, and they share a special bond. They are survivors of serious burns in childhood, but it’s not the scars that bond them, it’s their shared exuberance and love of life.
The girls were part of a gathering Sunday at Ambleside Park in West Vancouver to kick off this week’s burn camp in Brackendale, sponsored by the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters.
“Everyone has so much fun,” said Nazira, who joined dozens of kids, firefighters, burn unit doctors and nurses, family members and first responders at the park for a pancake breakfast, face painting and some water gun wars.
Nazira gets asked about the scars on her arm, a lot. It’s part of who she is. “That gets irritating, but I'm used to it,” says Nazira who was only nine months old when she was burned in a household accident. “I pulled myself up against a counter when I was learning to walk and I dumped a pot of boiling tea on myself.”
She doesn't remember the four weeks she spent in hospital. “What I learned at burn camp is that there's tons of people out there in the world that are different, and that have experiences like us.”
Burns are the third-leading cause of hospital admissions for children under 4 in Canada, and scalds are the most common cause of burns for kids under 6.
Emily was seven when she climbed on an open-backed chair.When her mother told her to get down, Emily turned to tell her she was fine. “I stomped both feet and one foot went through the chair’s open back.” She fell and knocked a kettle of boiling water on herself.
Emily’s burns were to her thighs and stomach, and dealing with the attention they attract is just part of the deal. “Some kids feel weird around me,” says Emily. “I just try not to act weird around them or boast about it.”
“A burn can affect a child in many different ways, both psychologically and physically,” says firefighter and burn camp director Brian Peterson. “At our camp we don’t make any distinction between the size and severity of burns because the smallest burn could have a massive impact. All kids are welcome."
The camp is all about fun, said Peterson. “We want them to remember it as the best week of their life.”
The camp also provides social and psychological supports to kids who need it.
“If you've had a burn, you shouldn’t be scared,” says Emily. “Come to burn camp, it’s fun, it’s free and you can meet a lot of great people.’