It was May of 1991 and I had been a burn nurse for nineteen months when Gary was found in a car that was on fire after the fire had been put out. The fire department did not think anyone was inside. His burns were extensive and he had breathed in a ton of smoke so Dr. Ayvazian told his fiancé Linda that he would not survive. Gary and Linda had both worked on the movie White Palace which was filmed in St. Louis about a year prior to his burn. I have never seen the movie but always remembered this fun fact.
Anyhow Gary was with us for a few months and then he was discharged home. The thing I remember most about him was the day they were making the mold of his face for his pressure mask. They inserted straws into his nose for him to breath through and then pretty much covered his head. I was his nurse that day and had to think hard about other things as I was having a claustrophobic panic attack for him. I am pretty sure I gave him extra Valium, Versed or something to make it more tolerable for me. Hee hee
It wasn’t too long before we started seeing him again. There was a Burns Recovered Support Group that was run by a guy who was before my time. It wasn’t long until he passed away and Gary and Linda stepped up to take over the group. I believe they met once a month and Gary would come visit patients once or twice a week during the day time.
After seeing an article in People magazine about a burn camp in Texas, Linda felt called that Missouri needed a children’s burn camp. After doing research she discovered we had none so she and Gary decided to start their own. The first year (1997) they had 17 campers and no child has ever paid for camp. The camp is located at the Lake of the Ozarks. Brian’s parents have a house at the lake so one summer Emily, Kayla and I made a visit to burn camp. Either Linda gave me bad directions or my lack of GPS skills were showing because I somehow managed to miss the turn and ended up driving to Jefferson City. I turned around and went back to the lake. Brian got his map out and gave me new directions. We found it the second time around. Although we didn’t stay long, I immediately knew it was a wonderful place for the kids. A week where they can be just kids and not burn survivors.
I have had so many burn unit memories over the past couple of weeks. Linda shared my blog and I heard from a nurse friend I have always remembered and wondered what happened to her. Back in the day people would ask how I could work there. And my answer was pretty much everyone got better and went home. I never really knew how most of them did after they left. There were certainly days when I left wondering if all the torture I and the team inflicted on these patients was worth it.
So on Friday I went and spent the evening with Gary and Linda. I had such a wonderful time that I ended up staying past eleven and the next day went to Universal Studios on four hours of sleep. I would have done it on no sleep! They are both two amazing selfless giving people. They took the support group to an amazing place and they started the camp from the ground up. I am sure at the time of the accident if you would have asked if this would have been their path in life they would have said no way. I can’t help but think God had this planned all along. I use to see Gary in the cafeteria on Tuesdays from time to time. It was always an exciting day for me. I cannot remember (even though we just talked about this) if they retired and moved four or six years ago. I do know it took me close to two years to stop looking for Gary in the cafeteria.
I’ve never felt that were truly recognized nor appreciated for all they have done, especially by the hospital. However it’s as if God purposefully put these words of Jesus in my head (yes I had to look up exactly where they are located. Bible bees locations are much like patients names. I know their story but not their names)
Matthew 6 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you
These two live this every day. I’m so thankful that I decided to share my Dr. Ayvazian blog with Linda. She responded with an invitation if you are ever in the area please come see us. She was probably blown away when I said I will actually be there in three days, free on Friday. Originally Emily and I were both coming on Saturday and starting trip on Sunday. Since I’m a theme park nazi I decided we should start on Saturday and fly in Friday. She took a red-eye so she could work on Friday and the rest is history.
Mole Moral ~ Gary and Linda are my providential people. (Another church term). Meeting them changed the direction of my life and so many, many more and for the better!