Pam’s story – my scars don’t define me

pam garcia cruz, burn patient, burn center, trauma care for burns, healing center for burn victims

Pam doesn’t remember a thing. On April 4, 2021, she was sleeping at a friend’s house. She woke up in May, in an ICU bed in Hennepin Healthcare’s Burn Center with burns covering 41% of her body.

In Burn Icu, pam garcia cruz, burn patient, burn center, trauma care for burns, healing center for burn victimsPam Garcia-Cruz had just turned 25 when she woke up in the Burn Center in May. All she can remember was that Tracy was stretching her and saw her wake up. Pam heard “You’re at the hospital, you’re okay. Do you know what happened?” She did not.

Ever so slowly, Pam learned why she was there. While sleeping at her friend’s house, a candle that sat very close started Pam’s hair on fire. Pam doesn’t remember any of that but has a slight memory of paramedics trying to comfort her as she was “freaking out”. She kept hearing “You’re ok, you’re ok”.

Upon arrival at the Burn Center in the ICU, Pam was placed into an induced coma. Waking up in May, with a trach in her throat, she couldn’t walk or talk. With help, she called her sister to tell her she was awake.

Pam’s sister Odeth has been her rock. Odeth took in her kids while Pam was in the hospital. Pam has kids that were 2 and 6 (now 3 and 8). Two days after she woke up, Pam was moved to a regular bed in the Burn Unit and gradually began to see what happened to her. She remembers that she wanted to brush her hair, but realized she didn’t have any. She reflects, “They told me my burns were extensive. I was burned on 41 % of my body – from my neck down to my torso. Although I still have my fingers, most of my right hand was burned, and half of my left hand.”

Burn outpatient therapy Pam Garcia, pam garcia cruz, burn patient, burn center, trauma care for burns, healing center for burn victims“On the second day after I woke up, a therapist came to see me,” she continues. “She asked me if I wanted to talk about it. I wasn’t ready. I was still processing it. She let me know what to expect. She taught me that trauma has a lot of stages, and it may take time to remember, but that eventually I would. I was getting upset and flustered but am more at peace now. I still talk to her today, and I still don’t remember, although I have small dreams that include fire”.

Today, Pam continues outpatient therapy at the Outpatient Burn Clinic (referred to as Therapy Satellite). “The therapists in this clinic, and I’ve seen them all, have helped me so much. At first, my scars hurt so much and were red, but now they have settled down. I am trying so hard to just make my body feel better. I’m so grateful to the therapists for being so patient with me. I’m not always the easiest patient, so when I’m difficult or in pain, they slow it down for me”.

“They have a 3D printer which has helped make masks for my neck and it makes gadgets to make it easier for me to do things. I couldn’t open a water bottle at first, I had to have my sister do it. Then I got a gadget to help and now I can do it myself”.

Pam Photo With Neck Brace burn, pam garcia cruz, burn patient, burn center, trauma care for burns, healing center for burn victims“Monica (hand therapist) is helping me get strength in my fingers. I also have nerve damage in my hands and they are sensitive to hot and cold. I used to take hot showers, for example, but now I can’t”.

Pam’s attitude is inspiring. “I’m focused on healing and don’t want to be angry. This opened my eyes to how grateful I am to be alive. I own that I’m a burn survivor and I don’t want to hide my burns – they are a part of me. It used to bother me when people stared at me. It still kind of does when adults stare, but not kids. Kids will come right up to me and ask what happened. I tell them and they say things like ‘I hope you’re ok’. It’s also changed my kid’s perspectives to not judge others who may look a little different”.

Pam attends the support group that is held at the Firefighters For Healing’s Transitional Healing Center and is in awe of what they do there. She hopes to volunteer with them one day. Is she worried about the day her trauma comes back to her memory? She says, “No, God will let me know when I’m ready to remember. He knows how strong my body is and how it can take it”.