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Rick's story.

I come from a small, family farm near Cissna Park, Illinois. In addition to crops, we also raised and trained Appaloosa horses, frequently spending weekends trail riding with family and friends. My spare time was spent exploring and awed by nature, working with other farmers, and employed at our local John Deere dealership.

On the night of May 14th, 1975 I was critically injured in a fiery automobile crash, trashing a telephone pole, cement culvert, my car, and myself. Among my numerous injuries were severe burns from the flames, scalding fluids and melting vinyl. The Cissna Park Fire and Rescue Squad transported me to a hospital in Champaign, Illinois. From there I was flown by helicopter to Foster Mcgaw Hospital, Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois. I recieved excellent care at Loyola over basically the next 2 years, the first 6 months in the Burn Unit. My injuries brought incredible pain, a plethera of medical procedures; over 30 major surgeries (including skin grafting and multiple amputations) countless localized procedures, complete physical rehabilitation, and the realization that my life had dramatically, permanantly changed. Although blessed with significant social reenforcement, and personally possessing a durable instinct for survival, I met many unexpected physical, social, financial, and professional challenges.

Networking with other burn survivors I discovered that many of us face similar challenges. After 20 years and numerous, unsuccessful career attempts, I graduated from Illinois State University in 1995. Today I am a Systems employee in the insurance industry.

Although it took decades to refit into society, quitting was never really a viable option. For me, the ongoing adaptation requires a sense of humor and significantly different view of reality. Although I cannot take credit for the saying, I concur with the simple statement on my favorite T-shirt:

"Scars are tattoos with better stories."

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