The Cardenas Family Finds Healing Together at Phoenix WBC
It was an ordinary day, and what should have been an ordinary family event. The family was barbecuing at home when the propane tank exploded. As a result, Eddie Cardenas, who was 15 years old, suffered burns over 50% of his body and spent the next seven months in the hospital.
For months the family’s routine was thrown off-balance. Eddie’s parents, Liz and Eduardo, spent their days at the Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, CA, more than an hour away from their home. Liz slept on a cot in Eddie’s room, leaving only to do laundry and tidy their home.
“The low points were the surgeries,” says Liz. “Sometimes they wouldn’t take, and then we would have to wait for the wounds to heal to try again.”
Finally, Eddie was released from the hospital. Because their local medical center wasn’t equipped to do physical therapy for Eddie, Liz was taught how to stretch and move her son’s muscles and skin. She worked with Eddie to regain his range of motion. And Liz struggled to maintain a sense of normal as the family rhythms were vastly changed by the challenges of burn care at home.
With time, healing, and Liz’s dedication to his physical therapy, Eddie was able to successfully rejoin his soccer team. He welcomed the opportunity to socialize with his friends again. By the following spring, Eddie attended his high school prom. It was another major healing milestone both physically and emotionally, and the family celebrated by sending his picture to the nurses they had grown close to in the hospital.
Despite the hardships, Eddie’s injury has brought his family closer together. “He talks more,” said Liz, who stayed with Eddie every day. Though Eddie initially blamed his father for turning on the barbecue that caused the accident, he has learned to forgive – and heal emotionally.
The family attended their first Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress in 2013. There, they found a place among a community they didn’t know existed. Liz and her daughter attended panels and met other families. Eddie’s older sister was particularly impacted by a panel for the siblings of burn survivors that addressed many of her worries, such as how to deal with people’s stares and questions.
Eddie attended UBelong, a program designed by burn professionals, survivors, and family members to positively impact young burn survivors, their siblings, and children of adult survivors. “For the first time, I was able to communicate with people my age and learn what they went through,” said Eddie.
Inspired by the peer support he experienced through Phoenix UBelong, and the Phoenix SOAR (Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery) peer support he received at the hospital, Eddie has decided to join Phoenix SOAR as a volunteer. “I’m very excited for the opportunity to be trained as a peer supporter,” he says.