February 3, 2014
Just being themselves
Burn survivors come together at TC3 to find common compassion
DRYDEN — Four months in the hospital, weeks in physical therapy and over a decade of enduring the looks of strangers on the street has taught Bruce Weisberg the merits of taking things one day at a time.
“You deal with it quick,” said Weisberg, who lost an arm and a leg due to burns sustained as the result of a car accident in 2000. “You have no other choice.”
Weisberg, 43, of Las Vegas, was one of 35 individuals who came together at Tompkins Cortland Community College this past weekend, afforded the opportunity by the college and the Burn Foundation of Central New York to share stories and support as they navigate the highs and lows of a life marked by serious burns.
“People look at me when they drive down the street,” said Weisberg, who shared his story with the overnight attendees on Friday. “They’re afraid to ask what happened. You just have to smile and tell them your story. That’s all it takes.”
“In school, some of the kids get shunned, picked on or bullied,” said Paul Knierman, an EMT in Syracuse who serves on the Burn Foundation of Central New York’s board of directors.Here, there’s no one looking at them and thinking, ‘oh my god, you’re burned.’”
In 2012, fires killed 2,855 people and injured 16,500, according to the National Fire Protection Association. An estimated 40,000 people are hospitalized annually for burn-related injuries, according to the American Burn Association.
Alieshaia Rosinsky, 20, a junior biology major at LeMoyne College, said she had been to many overnight camps as a girl, but that the TC3 event was her first reunion in quite a while.
“It’s definitely a comfort to know that there are other people who know how you feel,” said Rosinsky, whose legs and lower torso were burned as a toddler when her then-5-year-old brother tried to give her a bath. “My mother’s very outgoing, and she always encouraged me to accept myself and not be afraid to share my story.”
Though open and willing to talk candidly about her injuries, Rosinsky did say that, at times, stares, especially in summer, could be irksome.
“A little bit,” said Rosinsky when asked if she ever gets tired of it. “I understand. Some are wondering looks, some are disgusted looks.”
One of the weekend’s most poignant moments, said TC3 professor and member of the Burn Foundation of Central New York’s board of directors Chris Xaver, came in the college’s swimming pool.
“It takes a huge level of trust to get in a swimsuit,” said Xaver, who organized the weekend. “There’s a definite sense of pride that they trusted us enough so they could be themselves. This is like a huge family reunion. I had tears in my eyes.”
The weekend also included a check presentation ceremony, made possible with funds donated by the CNY MoPar (motors and parts) Association, and the Iron and Fire and Red Knights motorcycle clubs.
At the end of the day, over $8,500 was donated to the Burn Foundation, which makes it possible to help families with hospital expenses, fund camps and overnights and to send burn survivors to nationwide conferences.
The TC3 event coincides with national Burn Awareness Week held the first week in February.
“I was right on the edge of the table to live,” Weisberg said. “Life is short. You could go around the corner or across the street and a freaky thing could happen. Just take one day at a time.”
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