Lynnwood man helps burn victims heal at camp

  • Tue Jun 26th, 2012 7:28pm

<b>FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS | </b>By Mickey McLain For The Weekly Herald

LYNNWOOD — Troy Smith, 42, suffered third-degree burns over 20 percent of his body while trying to extinguish a grease fire in his home in February 2002.

That accident left the Lynnwood man burned on his face, right arm and leg. He was taken by ambulance to Harborview Medical Center and admitted to the burn unit for five weeks.

“As an adult burn survivor, the first few months after the injury was a very difficult time for me. It was especially hard having to learn how to cope with the aftereffects of the burn,” Smith said.

Smith endured two surgeries, six weeks of intense physical therapy rehabilitation, and six months of aftercare to physically recover from the accident.

His mental recovery took far longer.

“I would say that it took me a full year to get back mentally and back into the physical shape I was at before my burn injury,” Smith said. “But it doesn’t slow me down now.”

That “now” finds Smith in a mental space of wanting to make a difference in the lives of people who, like himself, have suffered traumatic burn injuries. He wants to show survivors that life does go on and that recovery is a continuous journey.

When a burn therapist introduced him to a summer camp for burn survivors, Smith decided that provided him a good platform to achieve that goal. He volunteered as a camp counselor the year following his accident.

For a week Smith took part in leading a group of young burn survivors in numerous activities, such as hiking, rock climbing and team-building exercises. While he had anticipated being an inspiration to his young campers as an adult burn survivor, he had not expected the positive impact that they would have on his self-esteem and confidence as the week went on.

“Talking to some of the young burn survivors helped me realize the strength and courage they live with daily,” he said. “This helped me in my recovery tremendously.”

After spending the week visiting and talking with fellow burn survivors, Smith became committed to bringing awareness and giving back the respect he had received from others like him. Smith is now one of the head leaders of the camp and runs an adult burn survivor group.

Camp Eyabsut, which was previously put on by the Northwest Burn Foundation, is now sponsored by Washington State Council of Firefighters Burn Foundation and run by volunteers. The organization offers a weeklong camp every July for young burn survivors, aged 7 to 17, from all over the Northwest.

The annual burn camp is held in North Bend and goes by Eyabsut, a name given by the Snoqualmie Tribe that means “to rise above anything.” The camp offers typical summer camp activities including swimming, archery, arts and crafts and outings for the older campers.

Volunteers also run free adult survivor groups that sponsor sailing, bowling and potlucks.

Joana Sanders, a 17-year-old Eyabsut alumna, finds camp a safe haven.

As a 5-year-old in Mexico she was burned when sparks from a firework ignited her dress. She suffered second- and third-degree burns on her stomach and thighs.

Shortly after the accident she was placed into the foster care system and, four years later, adopted by a Washington couple. While receiving follow-up care at Harborview, a therapist told her about the burn camp.

“Not only did the camp give me more confidence in myself, but it has taught me to love myself for who I am,” she said. “It’s a place where I don’t need to worry about what people think or say, I can just be myself without constantly worrying about my scars.”

Get involved

Camp Eyabsut is seeking donations to send burn survivors to camp after losing the support of its previous sponsor. To donate visit www.saveburncamp.org. To volunteer or for more details about the camp and survivor groups, email eyabsut@gmail.com or call 206-216-3271.