Life Beyond the Flames
Burn Survivor Story: Ron Thompson
Until the night of February 22, 1984 , I was an average 16-year-old. I was in high school. I liked playing sports and hanging out with friends. On that night, I went riding around with my girlfriend’s brother. We met some of his friends and decided to drag race. We passed a slow-moving vehicle on a curve and couldn’t see the oncoming pickup truck. We hit head on. The engine was pushed into my lap, breaking my right leg near my hip and trapping me in the car, which then caught fire. I put my hands up to protect my face. It got so hot the dashboard melted and dripped onto my leg. The flames were getting me.
The rescue people had to wait until the fire was out to free me with the Jaws of Life. By this time I had been burned over thirty-five percent of my body. I had third- and fourth-degree burns on my chest and back, on the right side of my face and head, and on my right arm and left hand.
. I lost part of the fingers on my left hand and some vision in my right eye. The fire took my right ear and my right arm just below the elbow. I also lost the rest of my childhood. I spent three months in a hospital, three months in rehab, and twenty-one-years-and-counting undergoing more than a hundred surgeries and working to recover physically and emotionally.
It’s a hard road, but I’m glad I survived. I’m married, and have four children and a grandson. I’m still trying to get the truck-driving job of my dreams. For the most part I lead a normal life. Dealing with depression is an ongoing concern. For many years I felt very lonely, struggling with how others saw and accepted me. Along with the support of my family, friends and community, it’s been very important for me to have a connection with the Phoenix Society and others who have been burned.
I continue to feel the stares from those who are curious, those who are shocked, and those who are scared by what they see. I try to use these opportunities to educate others in understanding and compassion.
My name is Ron Thompson.
(Courtesy of the Phoenix Society and Steve Lobel, author of “Recognition Beyond Burned: Portraits of Survival, Rebirth & Hope”)