Thomas’s Story – Lions #123 & 124

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. -Helen Keller ” 

Thomas lived the happy-go-lucky life of an average five year old until half way through his kindergarten year.  On Thursday, February 5, 1997 all that changed.  It began as a typical day. No one could have guessed the turn of events.  Thomas went to kindergarten in the morning.  After school he went with his mother and sister to visit his friend who had chicken pox.  They took the friend some soap to stop his itching.  While the two mothers visited upstairs with his little sister by their side, Thomas and his friend were downstairs playing Nintendo.  Because the electrical cords weren’t long enough to sit on the couch the two boys sat on the table in front.

Earlier that day, in preparation for a home appraisal, the mother of Thomas’ friend had lit scented candles throughout the house. Thomas and his friend did not notice that one of these was still burning on the table where they were sitting to play Nintendo.  The flames from the candle nipped at the back of Thomas’ shirt, catching the shirt on fire.  Thomas’ friend said to him, “Thomas, you’re on fire!”

Thomas panicked, as any young child would.

The screaming attracted the attention of the mothers and Thomas’ mom met him on the landing of the stairs as he ran up to find help. She felt guided to push him to the ground where she rolled him side to side to put out the flames.

The next four days were a blur of grief and pain as they went from doctor to doctor trying to find the proper treatment for Thomas’ third degree burn.  When the course of action prescribed seemed to throw Thomas’ little body into shock at every treatment, his parents sought further help at the University of Utah Burn Trauma Unit.  Thinking they would be given a different type of ointment to apply, the family headed to Salt Lake Monday morning.  Within an hour Thomas was scheduled for surgery to graft slices of his healthy skin over major portions of his back.

Thomas lay sedated in his hospital bed for the next eight days as the grafts took time to heal.

Finally, Thomas was able to move.  He wanted to get up and play.  His first attempt to stand was similar to the young Bambi trying to find his legs.  In the twelve days since Thomas’ accident, with all the trauma to his young body, he had lost all the strength in his muscles.  He had to work for the next several months doing painful physical therapy to get his strength and mobility back.

Thomas has overcome much. For the five years following his accident, Thomas wore special Jobst undergarments every day that protected his fragile skin from getting bumped, scraped or sunburned.  This skin continues to be very sensitive (recently he developed sores from simply doing sit-ups on the hardwood gym flooring) but aside from a back full of scars, Thomas is blessed to be able to live the full and happy life of an average sixteen year old.

Editor’s update:

The image included with this post shows Thomas and a group of young adults who completed a service project at a city park. Thomas is standing behind the wheelbarrow, wearing red shorts. He continues to contribute time and effort to other meaningful projects, including those that benefit others.

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