Burn Victim Questions and Answers

Some questions I’ve been asked recently:

Does all that hurt?

The quick answer is “no,” but it is an incomplete answer. I’m guilty of that response more often than I’d like to acknowledge.

Are you burned in your dreams?

Usually not, but I’ve have several dreams where I was cognizant that I was burned. Very odd to have any scars on my body within dreams. I very well could be burned in my dreams and it’s just not a very significant aspect of the dream realm. Though, the few dreams I’ve had where I am burned have surprised me. It like, “Wow, I’m burned. Didn’t know that.” Of the nearly 13,000 days that I’ve lived with burn scars, I’ve only had a handful of dreams that find me actually burned. I’m not sure of the implications; I’ve not studied dreams.

Why do you have hair growing in unusual places?

During the placement of full and split-thickness skin grafts many of my hair follicles came along for the relocation.

Why is your bottom lip different from mine?

My bottom lip is a combination of full-thickness skin graft and the inside of my mouth pulled out to make a lip. It is very stiff most of the time and quite in-tune with the weather conditions: dry and cracked during low humidity, and softer and pliable when humid. Depending on the rigidness of the lip my annunciation of words can be quite off at times. Very embarrassing. I’m still attempting to train myself not to apologize and just keep on talking.

I’ll work on expanding the list and my responses.

Burn Scars – ADA – Perceived Disability

This article from August 16, 2011, “Americans With Disabilities Experiencing Record Unemployment Rate” completely ignores burn victims who have not been hired because of their “perceived disability” when in fact there is no disability. Of course, when you’re treated as disabled but are in fact not disabled, there is no recourse. Yes, the ADA (ADAAA) and EEOC explicitly* covers burn victims as a “protected class,” but in real life people have a difficult time grasping how a “perceived disability” has any real harm. I’ll write more about this (not an easy topic): since 2005 I’ve been an “unemployed librarian” by trade, and I say unemployed librarian because I’ve applied to nearly every entry-level librarian opening within 100 miles of Tampa Bay Florida, and though I’ve had several interviews (and job offers) nothing has materialized (even the job offer was retracted after I accepted). During one interview the library director would not even maintain eye contact or shack my hand, and finally the reason I was not offered the position was that they didn’t think I was a “good fit” with the library. Whatever that means. I filed a complaint with the county HR, and the response was the director is a well respected professional, and that perhaps I should work on my interviewing skills. And for a complete waste of time, I filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations. The FCHR’s refused to make a determination because I could not explain what “major life activity” was impaired, which is exactly the point–there is no major life impairment: I’ve been “regarded as having” or “perceived disabled” when in fact I’m not disabled. See, ADAAA Section 12102 (3)(A). Also see this excellent law review article by Dale Larson, “Unconsciously Regarded As Disabled: Implicit Bias and the Regarded-As Prong of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

At times, I feel as if my adult career has been defined by applying to job openings, but that really wouldn’t be very accurate (memorable interview experiences). I will say I’ve always had a difficult time closing the interview in Florida versus DC or Chicago, where if I made it to an interview almost certainly I was offered the position. Florida, not so, the interview is the kiss of death. There’s an idea in Florida that there is always a better candidate, and definitely one not burned. This is, of course, is a generalization of Florida business practices. Also, at my current age I could be experiencing age discrimination, or even “over-educated” discrimination. I mean really, who wants a librarian with a juris doctorate degree and two decades of frontline customer experience in the demanding Information Technology field?

* “For example, persons with severe burns often encounter discrimination in community activities, resulting in substantial limitation of major life activities. These persons would be covered under this test based on the attitudes of others towards the impairment, even if they did not view themselves as “impaired.”” 28 CFR Part 35, 1992

Irritating 35 year old post burn scars

Age is catching up with me. After 35 years of burn injury pain-free life, my left arm with scars that go completely around my forearm is aching most of the time. It’s as if the scar band is cutting into the muscle, restricting blood flow, and throbbing pain. It’s my favorite left arm so I’m not too happy about this situation. Historically, the skin on my forearm does not glide over the muscle and is very tight; pinching the skin is like pinching the muscle directly. Compounding the situation is my lack of health insurance, which leaves me to my own care consisting of exercise, eating well, and adequate sleep, and generally try to stay mentally healthy, but organic approach really is no replacement for good medical care. I should note than I am foretunate my father is a doctor affording me liberal access to medical advice, but there are limitations (more limitations than the average person would expect).