Dear Burn Community,
Welcome to “Ask the Experts,” a burn community advice column. We know a strong support system is one of the most important factors in a successful recovery from a burn injury, so for this installment of our column, we focused on questions from loved ones looking for ways to support the survivor in their lives. While these submissions may be specific to a particular individual’s situation, all three questions are very common themes that many survivors and loved ones face on their journey.
Whether you’re a survivor, loved one, or burn support professional, we want to hear your questions and concerns—and nothing is off limits! Odds are, someone else is facing a similar challenge, and submitting your question can help them too. We want to tackle topics that matter to the burn community – and if we can’t answer your question or we know someone else who may be better able to help, we’ll tap other experts to share their knowledge. We want to know what's on your mind, from legal options to makeup techniques and everything in between.
Have a question? Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Ask the Experts."
Lise, Samoana, Felicia
Summer is approaching, and my wife is scared to wear a swimsuit because her scars will be visible. How can I help her feel confident and beautiful?
You are not wrong in wanting this first attempt to don a swimsuit to be a positive experience. The first time is usually the hardest, but a positive experience will go a long way in ensuring it will happen again.
I didn't think about swimming until the opportunity arrived. To give a little background, my scars are amputations of the hands, skin grafts on my forearms, and one skin graft in the crook of my left elbow. Most of the time my scars are hiding underneath prosthetic arms.
I was going to be swimming in the warm ocean of the islands of Samoa. At first, I swam with my prosthetics on. It seemed like I couldn't swim very well. I was really constrained by my prosthetic harness and when paddling with hooks, you don't get much pull.
Swimming without prosthetics on was my solution. This would require that I be seen without my prostheses on. I would need to shed the thing that I had come to believe made me look tougher, and being without them would draw more negative attention, pity, and shame. I also felt it would make me dependent on others, and as a person who likes to be independent, my self-confidence might suffer.
A good support system is empowering. I recommend including supportive friends and family who know the importance of the situation. For me, the message from my family was that I belonged. Even though I was without hands and with scarred arms, I belonged. All my family members were cheering me on. They reminded me that I was strong for going through what I had been through and that this was beautiful.
I don't know what words exactly to say, but they should be words of empowerment and encouragement. You know your wife better than I do, and I imagine you'll know what to say. I'm glad you're cognizant of the moment and have a couple of months to get ready. I believe it will be an awesome experience for you and for her.
Samoana Matagi earned a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Journalism in 2004. After two years in the field of Broadcast Journalism, he changed career paths to a high voltage electrical line worker, or lineworker. Three years into his apprenticeship, he was involved in an electrical work accident that cost him his hands. He then became critically acclaimed for his recovery story that drove him to create a YouTube channel to help other amputees. Now, he speaks to audiences about resilience. Learn more at www.nohandedbandit.com or by connecting with him on YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram.