Ohio Survivor and Family SOARs and Gives Back So Others Can

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Tony Nuss and family


Four years after a near fatal explosion changed their lives forever, an Ohio burn survivor and his family are giving back.

Tony Nuss was heading to work on an average weekday morning when his car exploded. As a result, he lost his hearing and suffered second- and third-degree burns on 20 percent of his body. This was Tony’s introduction to surviving a burn injury, being introduced to the SOAR program helped him truly thrive again.

“One of my biggest challenges has been adapting to my changed appearance and the change in how others view me,” he admits. “When I became part of the Phoenix Society’s SOAR program, I learned there is support and tools available to help you introduce yourself to the world after a burn injury. SOAR has helped me deal with the physical and emotional scars from my accident,” says Tony.

As trained SOAR peer supporters at University Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, Tony and his wife, Mary Beth, now offer their support to other burn survivors. “SOAR helped me adapt and overcome and it’s rewarding to be able to offer that same hope to others,” he says. “It’s a great feeling to see a once-scared person smile with relief after a SOAR visit.”

Tony and Mary Beth also found their experience at the Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress to be “life-changing.” Tony, a software engineer, volunteered to work with the audiovisual team, as well as attend all of the programming he and his wife could. “Seeing the confidence and happiness that other survivors like myself radiate to the people around them made me see that I can live a long and happy life with my family with no regrets and with purpose while embracing being a burn survivor,” he explains.

Tony is looking forward to having his wife, their 8-year-old twins, and 2-year-old daughter all experience World Burn Congress together this fall. “We all experienced a trauma, healed together, and have become stronger. We’ll continue to give back as volunteers and donors to the Phoenix Society so those that follow on this journey have the same support and programs that changed our lives.”

The Phoenix Society’s SOAR peer support program began in 2001 at 6 hospitals and is now offered at 56 hospitals in North America, connecting you to a national network of hundreds of peer supporters who make peer support accessible to more than 11,000 people each year. The recently expanded SOAR program also includes specialized peer support for members of the fire service who have been injured in the line of duty.


This story is an excerpt from The Phoenix Society’s® Burn Support News, Issue 1, 2013. Burn Support News is a quarterly publication that contains articles on the emotional, psychological, and social aspects of burn recovery.  All Rights Reserved.
The Phoenix Society, Inc.® • 1835 R W Berends Dr. SW • Grand Rapids, MI 49519-4955 • 800.888.BURN • http://www.phoenix-society.org