• Alicia Assad

The Beauty of Scars

Two years ago, my son William was burned by a pot of hot water. He joined thousands of burn victims who take the arduous journey to recovery from such an injury. That is - those who are lucky to survive. Every day, I am grateful that William is a burn survivor.

Yes, my son survived the scald burn covering 16 percent of his body, but he carries extensive scars from his injury, so he continues to face adversity. He overheats easily from the lack of sweat glands. We live with the fear that he may lose mobility as his scars shift. Most of his scars can be concealed by clothing, so in a long-sleeved shirt with a collar, his injury can almost go unnoticed. Mostly William has a choice to conceal his scars (one that many burn survivors don’t have). But there are moments when he doesn't want to be burdened by weather inappropriate clothing, or his clothing shifts. When his scars are seen, he needs manage when others point and stare, or when someone says (and yes, this has happened) that he is "disgusting and gross." For me to help my son manage the emotional scars of a burn injury, I needed to work at managing them myself.

In July after the accident, William received his compression garment, a suffocating, skin-tight, long-sleeved turtle shirt designed to compress his all of his scars. Though I hated that compression garment with a vengeance, I made William wear for 23 hours every day because it was the only tool I had to make his scars better besides twice-daily scar tissue massage. I was determined to fix what was wrong, so a compression garment, massage, and time to heal were not enough for me. This led us to seek a second opinion from another burn specialist because both Eddie and I wanted to fix him. My second opinion doctor was the first person who pointed out that our son was scarred. He said, “We don't like scars because they are ugly, but in this case, you need to accept them. Be grateful your son is alive and move on.”

This was hard news to digest, but we both needed to hear it because if William’s scars were a part of who he was, we needed to love his scars too. Though the angry pattern of hypertrophic scars running down his neck, across his chest and down his right arm was a roadmap of pain and sadness for me, I fought to maintain the perspective that his scars are beautiful because they are symbolic of the strength he showed through adversity. William’s scars remind me of his bravery. Because of what he had to endure I have seen the strength of his spirit.