Like most things in life, everyone reacts differently to surviving injury inflicted by heat and fire.
Each burn survivor is alike, and different, says Stasi Manser.
“I grew up not being different,” said Manser, the eldest of five siblings. “I spent a lot of time not disabled in any way.”
Manser suffered third, fourth and fifth degree burns to over 90 per cent of her body in a childhood accident. She wasn’t expected to live. Her family kept faith in her strength, and a year and 11 days after the accident Manser returned home. What followed was decades of physical healing, travelling for treatment and thriving. She’s determined not to be seen as a person with a disability or handicap.
“I’ve had a full, enriching life,” she says.
Highly visible, or easily hidden, “burn trauma is burn trauma,” adds the Victoria woman who can’t really hide her scars. “What goes on underneath it all is still there.”
Manser will lead others, offering her insights as Island representative in the expanded Adult Burn Survivor Future is Mine program through the The B.C. Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund program.
“I started feeling like ‘my kids are raised, there’s something missing’,” Manser said. “I’m grown up now and I’ve stepped into my boots. I do have something to offer.”
Ann Coombs developed the program for three years before launching it seven years ago on the Lower Mainland. Saturday marks the start of the Island program with an official launch at the Oak Bay fire hall.
“We’re coming to the Oak Bay fire hall because of the positive support we have from the firefighters and from the community,” said Coombs, who serves as program director. “It is another way of integrating the burn community into the community.”
In the intervening years Coombs has worked to develop the Island program. It’s come to fruition now in part because of sponsorship from local groups and businesses to provide group activities such as going to the Victoria Symphony and Victoria Art Gallery.
“Activities which bring the burn group together are positive, empowering and brings them out into the public,” Coombs said. “The power of the Future is Mine program is all about giving them power.”
Hosting the launch was an easy fit for Oak Bay Fire Fighters Charitable Foundation, says representative Greg Swan. The local firefighter is among those who have attended B.C. Burn Camp, a youth survivor experience. B.C. Professional Fire Fighters Burn Fund is a fundraising body for firefighters throughout the province.
“It’s been a long time coming. We jumped at the chance to host the event,” Swan said.
“It’s valuable … For our department it’s a great opportunity to showcase who we are to the burn survivors, as well as for members of Oak Bay to meet burn survivors first-hand. It’s an impacting experience.”
Through the program, members of the adult burn community will connect to share survival stories and resources as well as experience activities that inspire and educate. Guest speakers at the meeting will include: Gwen Linski-Dulmage of Nanaimo, a survivor who lost two children in a house fire; Brandon Hayter of Victoria who was burned in a campfire explosion; and Jane Calder of Victoria who was burned as a child and is now a new mother.
“When we’re at our lows, we don’t realize that the only thing that stops us, is us,” Manser said, excited to foster spirit and determination in the group. “I’m loving it. It’s really exciting to bring this community together.”
Monthly coffee meetings for the group start Monday.
For more information on The Future Is Mine Adult Burn Survivors program or the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund, visit burnfund.org.
Learn more about Oak Bay Fire Fighters Charitable at oakbayfirefighters.com.