My friend David Vogel is a hikers’ hiker. He leads trips for a number of different clubs, he’s hiked the Long Trail and Cohos a few times, he bushwhacks and he hikes in the Winter Whites. Although we’ve known each other for a few years, I only really got to know him last year when we did a few bushwhacks together. I really respect his judgement and count him amongst the handful of male friends that I’ve grown close to.
I know from talking with David that he’s a burn survivor but I don’t think it ever registered with me how badly he was burned in a house fire in 2004. It seems incredible to me that he was in a medically induced coma for 5 weeks after the fire, received skin grafts over 50% of his body, and was told he’d have to eat pureed mush the rest of his life. Somehow he battled back to lead the full life he lives today.
In February of 2004, when I was early in the planning stages for hiking The Long Trail, I was badly injured in a house fire. Severe burns covered half my body and with serious lung injury due to smoke inhalation, I was given about a 50% chance of survival. Even when I emerged from an induced coma in April, the chances of my backpacking again seemed slim. When I told my physical therapist that my goal was to be able to hike the Long Trail, she looked at the floor – caught her breath and said with a forced smile, “well, it is good to have goals.” Determination to realize this goal and fear that I might not be able to make it were tremendous motivators for me as I struggled to walk again, to regain the ability to swallow and manage whole foods and liquids, and to achieve effective use of my hands and fingers.
David persevered and hiked all 272 miles of Long Trail in 2005, just 18 months after leaving the hospital. His is an inspiring tale, which I am only learning the full extent of now.
The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors
David attributes his recovery in large part to the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. In a letter to me, he writes:
I found myself embraced, encouraged, supported, informed and guided by an amazing group of burn survivors, most of whom had suffered injuries far greater than my own – losing fingers or limbs, facial features, brothers, partners, lovers and children. It was a humbling and wonderful experience. While I had always known, at least superficially, about the power of love and that each individual has something priceless to offer regardless of their material circumstances and physical ability – being the beneficiary of great kindness from people who had lost more than I could bear losing gave substance and weight to these truths.
Sounds like an incredible group of people and well worth our support. Without their help for David, I would never have met or come to know the person and friend that he is.
The New England Walk for Burn Survivors
In 2006, David founded the New England Walk for Burn Survivors in part to give back to a group that had done so much for him, and to pass on these gifts to others who would find themselves in need. “I wanted to be part of a community that did great things; one that offered support and fellowship to those who had survived horrible trauma. Many of my heroes are in this group and the opportunity to work with them, and sometimes for them, is humbling and a source of great delight.”
Join Us on November 3, 2012 in Cambridge, Massachusetts
The 7th Annual New England Walk for Burn Survivors takes place on Saturday, November 3, 2012. We assemble at the American Legion Marsh Post #442 in Cambridge, at 10:30 am and walk 3 miles around a section of the Charles River.
- Gerrys Landing-Eliot Bridge
- Cambridge, MA 02138
The walk is followed by lunch; the food is generously donated by Redbones and Jacob Wirth. Please drop by even if you don’t have time to walk. Links for registration and other information are provided below.
In this walk, we are raising money for Burn Survivors of New England (BSoNE) and the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. As BSoNE is in the process of filing for non-profit status, only checks made out to the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors are potentially tax deductible.
To learn about the Phoenix Society, please check out: www.phoenix-society.org.
For info on BSoNE, forms and a link to registration: http://bsofne.ning.com/events/
For more on my David’s story, please check out: http://www.cbsnews.com/
David and I look forward to seeing you on November 3, rain or shine. Severe weather cancels.