The identity crisis of burn survivors

‘It was like the blast all over again. That was not Chad Michaels. He didn’t know that freak. It had to be some Halloween costume of a monster from some horror movie staring back at him.

He thought of his high school senior picture. His black hair, dangling slightly over his forehead, his blue eyes gleaming so proud. His face beaming, smooth, fresh, real. That was Chad Michaels: football star; corporal in the Marines; Margery’s husband.’

Mirrored Reflections

I will admit that I do not like looking in a mirror at myself. I have perfected not seeing me until I need to notice something as my eye makeup, hair, lipstick. Then I will observe and move on. Still, there are those days when it all comes together, and those days to “just stay home.” Yeah, that’s my self-image, and, yes, that needs work.

After watching Dancing With the Stars when J.R. Martinez, a very scarred burn survivor, win the mirrored ball with Karina Smirnoff, I realized how blessed I was. J.R. had been caught in a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. He survived that explosion that had burned 34% of his body and went through the intense and brutally painful burn treatments. Then, like ChadMirrored Reflections, he faced the results in the mirror: “shriveled, mottled with ginger-colored spots and stringy scar tissue, nostrils and eyes misshapen, jaw at an odd angle”….and no ear. He had become a burn survivor whose only thought was ‘who could love me now.’ (Be sure to read FULL OF HEART by J.R. Martinez and his journey through this hell.)

However, it was during DWTS that Karina made J.R. sooooo sexy by caressing all these visible scars while they danced. I remember, during the tango, her hand deliciously gliding over the hole where an ear once was, and seemingly wipe away that horror. Karina changed how I see such survivors.

That inspired my book. Mirrored Reflections. Chad is a burn victim of a bomb blast. Like all survivors of such tragedies, it destroys who they see in the mirror. J.R. and Chad had no choice but to confront their ‘new you.’ …and it was hard.

Because this healing is difficult, Alan Breslau, a burn survivor, founded Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors in 1977. Phoenix Society’s the leading national nonprofit organization and is dedicated to empowering people affected by a burn injury. Their goals are to serve burn survivors, loved ones, burn care professionals, researchers, and anyone else committed to empowering the burn community and building a safer world. “Together, we want to ensure that no one facing the life-changing effects of a burn injury is forced to journey through healing alone.” (Journey Magazine. From Phoenix Society.)

Phoenix Society sponsors programs such as Phoenix SOAR that connects survivors and loved ones with others who have experienced similar trauma as well as the Journey Forward Kit- a first of its kind kit to provide tangible connections to resources and community through technology, burn aftercare products, and more during the critical stages of the transition at home, with soooo much more coming in the future.

On October 2023 at National Harbor, MD, Phoenix Society will sponsor the Phoenix World Burn Congress. This conference will provide education, support programs and varied resources for burn recovery.

Fortunately, this corporation is busy helping people survive ‘the mirror.’…and we should too. Like Truckers Against Trafficking, together, we can make the world to a better place.

Please visit to learn  how you can take part in helping these courageous survivors.

Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors

525 Ottawa Ave, NW FRNT, Grand Rapids MI 49503


My latest book MIRRORED REFLECTIONS confronts the issue of burn recovery when Chad faces a suicide bomber. With the help of family and friends, he deals with his ‘new you.” For more information about MIRRORED REFLECTIONS, coming out Jan 2023, as well as my other books…visit And be sure to sign up for my newsletter.

Be sure to listen to Girls with Grafts with J.R. Martinez…about NOT being a victim of burns but a survivor.

Share This