Thursday, 16 April 2015
Boy who Suffered Severe Burns Overcomes Fear To Become A Firefighter
Terry McCarty was just six years old when he was engulfed with flames after his brothers filled a bowl with kerosene which was set alight and accidentally knocked on to him.
The 29-year-old, from Hawthorne, Nevada, endured 58 operations as well as cruel taunts from bullies who called him Freddy Krueger because of the scars on his face, body and arms.
But he was determined to overcome the harrowing experience that had crippled his confidence for years.
said: 'After the accident I lived in a constant state of fear and uncertainty.
'I struggled to find work as an adult as people always told me I was a liability, and I had started to believe it.
He said: 'As part of my training I had to complete a live fire exercise, where fire is made using propane in an artificial setting.
'Fear washed right over me, just as the fire had all those years ago.
'I couldn't move, I felt like I was six years old again when I saw those flames shooting out of the ceiling.
'But I think it helped. In the end - I started to realise the fire didn't control me. Why should I let fear take over my life?'
In July 2012, having passed his training, Mr McCarty won the admiration and respect of his colleagues and the public.
He said: 'Attending events, or even just being out in public in my uniform, always attracted a mixture of shocked and awed reactions.'
Mr McCarty lost part of his fingers and thumbs in the accident and had to teach himself how to quickly put on his uniform and air tank and properly brace himself with his hip when using a hose.
Having spent two years as a firefighter, he quit the force to work with the Burned Children Recovery Foundation at Camp Phoenix, a programme in Bellingham, Washington, supporting children with burns.
He said: 'Fire robbed me of my childhood - I wanted to give these children a chance to experience being a kid, even for a short time.'
After his accident in 1992, he was placed in a medically-induced coma for two months at Shriners Hospital in Galveston, Texas.
Mr McCarty was hospitalised for 12 months and remembers this time vividly, including the debridement process of scrubbing off his burned skin, and multiple skin grafts.
He said: 'It was absolutely terrifying. I didn't understand anything - all I knew was that when I saw a doctor, I should expect pain.
'I'd be taken out of surgery just long enough to stabilise and then I'd be rushed back in.'
After a year of recovery, he returned to school at the age of eight, where he became the victim of bullies who would call him 'monster', 'toast' and 'Freddy Krueger'.
He said: 'The one thing that got me through was the love of my family - especially my brothers, Ryan and Jason.
'There was never any anger between us, and I don't know what I would've done without them.'
He and his brothers became inseparable and with their encouragement and support he found the courage to stop hiding himself, and accept the stares and comments.
He said: 'The emotional bond we had was vital to my recovery - they did so much for my confidence by just being there.'
Apart from the scarring and damage to his hands, he suffered no major health issues as a result of the burns, and quickly adjusted to moving with his tighter skin.
He is now focusing on opening his own foundation to fund programmes for children with burns.
Although he has no immediate plans to return to firefighting, he hopes his foundation, which will focus on fundraising, will provide the financial support needed for other foundations that offer firefighting experience.
Mr McCarty, now of Bellingham, Washington, said: 'Nothing like this programme has been done before.
'It's going to take a lot of work, but being able to support people who suffered like I did will make it all worthwhile.'
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