Monday, April 25, 2011

V is for Volunteering


I've never done volunteer work. I've been active in many organizations but I've never committed time to "working" somewhere as a regularly scheduled volunteer. I haven't had the time, nor have I found a place that was right for me. But that has changed. A few months ago I discovered the Phoenix Society, which works with burn survivors, and I knew I had found my niche. One of their programs is called SOAR, Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery, and I've begun the process to become one of their volunteers.

I was 19 when I caught fire from a gas stove in my room at my college sorority house. I knew not to run, but I ran. Had it not been for a quick-thinking girl who threw me to the floor and called the housemother, I wouldn't be here today. I still remember the feel of the fire around my legs, the pain, the smell, and the three months I spent in the hospital. I was fortunate that, at a medical conference the week I was burned, our family doctor ran into a burn specialist at UTMB in Galveston and he became my plastic surgeon. "We have to make you sick to make you well," he told me, and "sick" was a pretty bland word for the treatment of third degree burns. But, again I was lucky. Most of my burn scars don't show. Getting through the treatment, fighting the pain, learning to walk again made me stronger. "You'll never be completely glad this happened," my doctor told me, "but you'll never be completely sad either." He was right. So now I have a chance to give back, to encourage other burn patients and their families.

To be part of the SOAR program, you first have to take the regular volunteer training. I finished that today, ending with a "scavenger hunt" so you can familiarize yourself with the hospital. You have to visit all 7 buildings in the hospital complex and answer all sorts of questions, such as "What color is the hair of the receptionist in the liver center? How many beds are in the procedure area? What floor in the Children's Unit has a waiting room where you can eat? How many vending machines are in the ER? What is the soup of the day in the Cafe Bon Pain? It was a lot of walking, but it was fun. Now I start my burn unit training. I'm looking forward to it.

2 comments:

Suzi Banks Baum said... [Reply to comment]

Lucky people who get to encounter you Thelma. I am so grateful for your sorority sister saving you like that. Please send her my gratitude. So good to stroll through the alphabet and your life with you! Love, S

thelmaz said... [Reply to comment]

Suzi, celery? I love pretty stamps, too. As for computers, my husband had a computer business so I've been around them for a long time; however, at the hospital the volunteer coordinator needed me to fill out information and she said, "Are you familiar with computers?" I guess she thought I was 100 years old.

 

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