No Scars To Your Beautiful
I just want to start off by giving a little warning, some of the details and photos below may be difficult to see/read. Please be advised but please hang in there for the true beauty of this post!
My memories of that day are both vivid and blurry at the same time. I was ten years old and my youngest sister, Carissa, was 4 months old. I remember I was on the phone in the living room with my aunt who was working in Florida at that time. It was a Sunday morning, and we were having family over that day for a get together for one of my brother’s birthday. My dad was in the kitchen preparing things to cook, my mom had left for the grocery store, my two older brothers & older sister were sleeping late, my grandmother was also on another house phone talking to my aunt with me, my two year old cousin was on the front porch playing with toys and my baby sister was in there too sleeping in her carseat. The front porch was my dad’s happy place, it wasn’t so much a ‘porch’ but an enclosed room fully wrapped around in big windows on the front of our house. He loved that room so much that he moved his coffee maker in there and he & mom would sit in their chairs every morning and drink their coffee with my baby sister in her seat next to them. So in the midst of all the different things going on that day, we suddenly heard my baby sister yell out in loud shrieking cry, I remember my dad running so fast through the living room from the kitchen to get to her.. and I blur out a little bit at this point of the story.. the next thing I remember was my dad yelling ‘call 9-1-1’ to my sister who was awakened by all the screaming… then I blur out again.. my older sister, Sabrina, says she remembers dad screaming for her to call but she didn’t have any idea at the time what was going on, she recalls the dispatcher asking what the emergency was and she didn’t know what to tell her. One of the most gut-wrenching parts of her recollection of that morning was she remembers my dad just screaming ‘oh no’. My next memory is walking into the bathroom, terrified, where I saw a vision that is permanently printed, framed, and hung on the walls in my brain for the rest of my life.. my dad, my sister, my brothers, and my grandmother all gathered around over the bathtub, my dad holding my baby sister in a cold water bath, as instructed by the dispatcher on the phone. I peeked around them and saw Carissa, much of her skin was gone exposing only bright red flesh… I can still see her face bright purple and hear the loudest screaming crying I had ever heard while also gasping for air. At ten years old it was really hard for me to grasp what I was seeing or know what to do… I feel like when people describe an out of body experience, that’s what it feels like.. and there I blur out again. I do have a visual of the ambulance parked out in front of our house but no memory of my sister being taken away or anything. She was rushed first to two local hospitals and then airlifted to Shreveport. My next memories are my grandmother staying with us while my parents spent weeks at the hospital. I don’t recall the moment when my sister and my parents actually came back home, but the next memory I can recall is when she was back home and my parents were having to change her bandages daily. My mom explained the process of bandage changing saying ‘We tried to do it when you kids weren’t around because of how traumatic it all was so your dad would come home from work a few times during the day while you guys were at school. We would have to give Carissa pain medicine first, then take off all the bandages, clean her up, and put on the creams and fresh bandages. I would have to hold her up and your dad would wrap, she would just scream so loud the entire time but once we were done changing them and she was wrapped back up she was okay again.’ She thinks my memories of the bandage changing may have mostly come from the weekends but now I have new perspective of what they went through dealing with all of this and also trying to protect and traumatize us other kids as little as possible.
So what exactly happened that day? My dad had just put a fresh pot of coffee on and stepped out for minute to check things in the kitchen. You guys, accidents truly can happen in the blink of an eye, you can intentionally be safe and try protect your children but sometimes things you could never predict or anticipate will happen.. While my dad stepped out, my cousin (two years old at that time), after observing the grown ups pouring coffee, decided to imitate what he had seen. While my dad was out, he grabbed a toy cup, went over to the full, fresh pot of coffee and pulled it down assumingly to pour coffee into his toy cup. The pot was obviously much too heavy for his little hands to hold and he dropped the entire pot of coffee on my baby sister whose seat was just below, beside my dad’s chair. I can still picture in my mind the little yellow toy cup that he had picked up laying in the chair. Carissa had 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree burns covering over 50% of her tiny 4 month old body. We can’t recall the exact percentage but it ranged between 50%-70%. The coffee pot hit her in the head, and poured down the right side of her body. Two of her worst burns/scars are on her stomach and her upper thigh where her diaper held the pool of coffee in place in just those few split seconds before my dad got to her.
Tonight I sat down with mom, dad, and Carissa, I put on a slideshow of our photoshoot and asked a few questions about the details of that day. My dad broke down very quickly into the story, having trouble getting his words out, explaining how they weren’t allowed to take the helicopter ride with her from Lake Charles to Shreveport and once they arrived in Shreveport they weren’t allowed to see her in ICU for 24 hours. It was clear that talking about it with us really brought him back to how painful that experience was. Once they were able to see her they could only see her for a few minutes at a time. After a few weeks the doctor, a friend of our family, decided that he would allow mom and dad to go home with Carissa. They taught them how to change her bandages and they had to go back to Shreveport every other day for a few weeks then once a week, and so on after that. I didn’t know this detail of the story, Shreveport is 4 hours from my parents house so I can’t imagine what it was like to have to make that drive every other day. One part of the story that no one can seem quite sure of was who contacted my mom at the grocery story, but someone made the call to the store and they called my mom over the loudspeaker to their phone. I can’t imagine what kind of sinking feeling she had at that moment. She left her grocery cart in the store and went straight to the nearest hospital to meet dad, Sabrina, and Carissa. Neither of the two local hospitals they were sent to were equipped to handle her extensive burns so that’s when the decision was made to airlift her to the burn center at LSU Health in Shreveport. Mom says the moment they found out they would not be able to fly to Shreveport and they watched the helicopter fly away with her was the first time she really just broke. They both mention how fast they drove to Shreveport, making it there in only a couple hours.
Below are a few photos my parents have saved from their time in the hospital.
You may or may not notice her scars when you see her in person, but let me tell you what you absolutely WILL see… you will see a sweet girl who never once carried herself like she was flawed or scarred, you’ll see a girl who always openly and happily answered questions when asked ‘what happened to you’, you will see a girl more beautiful on the inside than she is on the outside and she is GORGEOUS on the outside, you will see a girl who found a way to love her true self in a world that wants you to choose fake over real, you will see a girl who found confidence in her flaws when the world tells you to just cover them up, you will see a girl with a light shining so bright inside that it’s contagious to others. Over the years I’ve grown more and more proud to call this wonderful human my sister and my friend. So I was beaming with emotion and pride during this empowering photoshoot. Can you imagine being so confident having your photos taken with absolutely no makeup, hair unfixed, in simple jeans & a tank top PLUS openly exposing one of the most difficult parts of your life story? But I watched her face light up with a smile and her head shaking yes while she flipped through the photos on my computer. After all the photoshoots I’ve done with her with a full face of makeup, styled hair, and outfits we spent weeks/months planning… this seems to be the photoshoot that she really loves the most! And that speaks volumes of her true character in my opinion. But hey, I am very VERY biased ;) It was 18 years since her accident last week and this weekend my sister will graduate high school so the timing of it all feels so perfect. I’m so happy to finally have this story of my beautiful, wonderful sister on the blog. I just want everyone to know, sharing her story was not meant to be sad, or gain pity.. my sister wanted to share her story in order to empower! To show that her flaws don’t define her and yours don’t either. You were created just the way you are for a purpose and everything you’ve been through was carefully stitched into your story with good reason by The Creator of all. So listen, I’ll stop blabbering on now and allow you guys to check out these incredible photographs of this beautiful human! But first, Carissa, I am so overwhelmingly proud of the young woman you have become! You are 10 years younger than me and still inspire me in so many ways! You have a beautiful heart and I cannot wait to see where life takes you from here on!
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:13-14