By Guest Blogger Kelly Falardeau
As I look back on my life, I think about why people have called me amazing. I certainly don’t feel amazing. I feel like I’m just like everyone else– living life. But another survivor friend of mine summed it up this way; she said, “Kelly, when people see someone has become a victim of a traumatic injury, they expect you to quit. We didn’t quit, we persevered. And we didn’t let our scars stop us from accomplishing our dreams, hopes and passions. We went on to get jobs, husbands, kids and whatever we wanted. We became survivors, not victims.”
Growing up, I was never allowed to quit. Quitting was not even permitted in my vocabulary. I was taught that if I wanted ANYTHING in life, that I had to go out and get it. Nothing was going to be just handed over to me, and so if I wanted something, I had better figure out how to make it happen. This taught me very early to never quit. I learned that I had just the same options as everybody else did. It didn’t matter if I had scars all over my body, I was normal in the eyes of my family, and deserved a life just as much as anyone else did.
Even though I wasn’t considered one of the “pretty” girls, I still tried out for the cheerleading squad, I still tried out for choir, I still asked the guys to dance, and I still put myself out there because I knew that I wouldn’t get anywhere in life if I just stayed home and continued to be shy and blame everything on my scars. Eventually people started saying that they didn’t notice my scars, they noticed my inner beauty.
“If you want more possibilities in life, you have to take the risk in order to gain the rewards.”
The best way to tell my story is with this letter from my mom. She experienced the trauma 42 years ago when I was two years old and she was 21 years old and pregnant with my sister. She still remembers it as if happened today.
November 23, 2010
This is the hardest letter that I have ever had to write. You should realize that this was the biggest life-changing day of my life, August 28, 1968.
There is nothing that I could do to change that horrible day, no matter what. It was only 15-minutes in time that, no matter what, could never be changed. How horrible, I couldn’t apologize, plead, beg, or bribe my way out of this terrifying accident. It was the most painful, hurtful, go to hell and back day.
I had just fed you and your cousins Michael and Rod dinner, and you all wanted to go back outside and play. I was inside cleaning up. The boys wanted to keep throwing the old shingles off the garage roof into the burning barrel. If only I had kept you back to change your diaper– if only, if only, if only. I could say it a million times but it would still not change anything that has happened to you.
And then. I heard the boys making noise, you crying loudly, and our neighbor Willie had just driven into the yard. I ran outside to see what was going on; you were now on the steps at Nana’s house. Your shirt was still on fire and so I quickly put my hand on it to pat it out. Willie had already poured the water on you that Rod ran to get. The boys said you were on the far side of the burning barrel and you were on fire. They didn’t want to roll you in the dirt, that would make you dirty, so Rod went to get water.
You were crying and crying, it was horrible. I picked you up and ran with you to our house. I wrapped a blanket around you and away we went, Willie our neighbor, you & I to the Stony Plain Hospital.
We drove so fast that it only took us 20-minutes from Stony Plain Hospital to the U of A Hospital and normally it takes 45. On the way, you said to me, “Mommy it hurts.” That just ripped my heart out and threw it on the floor. I was crying all the while. I replied, “Yes I know, baby. We are getting you help as soon as possible.” The three of us were terrified.
The three doctors and multiple nurses were all waiting for us when we arrived at the hospital. The doctor scooped you out of my arms and I didn’t see you again until the next day. Someone took me and put me into an office in the emergency area of the hospital and left me there to wait and wait. All I could do was pray, pray and pray, I was so frightened. I knew nothing for hours. It was now 7:30PM.
Your Dad came to the hospital and could not find me. Nana & Popa came to the hospital and they couldn’t find me either. I was 21, barefoot and pregnant. No shoes on and no identification. I don’t know what happened to Willie, he couldn’t find me either.
Finally after about three-hours, Dr. Henry Shimizu came into the room where I was and told me what was going on, where you were and how seriously you were burned. I don’t really have a clue as to what he said other than he told me you had a 50/50 chance of living. All I could imagine was someone flipping a coin saying heads you live, tails you lose.
They took you up to surgery to put a tracheotomy in your throat so you could breathe. Seventy-five percent of your body was burned and 35% was into the flesh, beyond third degree. Then he left me.
I was in shock. I just could not understand why this would happen. What had I done to deserve such punishment? Was it because I was such a rebellious teenager? But if that was the case, why punish my child? Why not me? I wanted to change places with you and would have, if I could have. This was just insane. All alone, no one anywhere, what was I to do? My brain was going a 100 mph. Where were my parents, my husband, someone to rescue me, wake me up & tell me this is all a bad dream? Terrible things don’t happen to people like us. It was just so unbelievable.
Finally your Dad found me around midnight. He wanted to know what happened and he wanted to kill the boys. Well, it took a lot of talking to stop that from happening. The nurses would not let us see you because you were in the operating room and they didn’t know when you would be in a room. They took our phone number and said they would call if anything happened. We left the hospital in shock. Your Dad drove home. We were both bargaining with God to change things, but no dice.
Sorry, I cannot write any more, the pain is still there and every day I remind myself how stupid I was to let this happen to you.
Although my mom still feels the emotional pain, I do not remember the accident nor all the painful surgeries that followed. Even though I never thought I would end up being considered a beautiful woman, I am. I have been married to my husband for 14 years and together 24. We have three beautiful children, Alexanna, Cody and Parker (twins) and a successful business. I have won some hubling awards including the most recent, Fierce Woman of the Year 2010, plus when I competed in a model search competition I won the People’s Choice Award. I have also been featured in the media including television, radio, magazines and internet media. I recently finished my book called “No Risk No Rewards” and have been following my passion to be an international keynote speaker and inspire people around the world.
So why tell you my story? Well, it’s quite simple.
Ultimately, life is about choices. You can choose to be happy or you can choose to be sad. You can choose to be bitter or you can choose to be better. You can choose to feel ugly or you can choose to feel beautiful. You can choose to believe that people are staring at you because they think you’re weird or different, or you can choose to go about your life with integrity and a smile. You can choose to follow your dreams, or you can choose to feel sorry for yourself. You can choose to walk out that door no matter what life situation you are dealing with, or you can choose to hide inside because you think you don’t deserve a life.
I chose life. And that has made all the difference.
Kelly got burnt when she was two years old and was always taught that she was just a normal kid like everyone else and so she didn’t know life any different.
Kelly has learned through the years that she is unique in that when she has a dream or desire to do something, she just DOES IT.
Kelly is an International Keynote Speaker, inspiring others to find their dreams and realize that No Risk means No Rewards.
To read more about Kelly, click here.
Feel free to leave Kelly a comment below.