Winnipeg hosts first National Burn Survivor Conference

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The first ever Canadian Burn Survivor Conference held May 4 to7th, 2005 in Winnipeg, Manitoba was hosted by the Mamingwey Burn Survivor Society, with the support of the Phoenix Society – a large Burn Survivor organization in the United States.

This conference was the first national event of its kind in Canada. More than 160 burn survivors, their families and friends, as well as health-care workers and fire fighters attended the three-day event. Many came from across the country – from Victoria BC to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Something magical happens when so many burn survivors are together; the spirit of the group was palpable from the beginning.

The Mamingwey Burn Survivor Society was formed in Winnipeg in 2003 by a group of burn survivors and Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre Burn Unit staff. This national conference was a huge undertaking for the Society that has been hosting an annual provincial conference since 1998.

The conference featured two keynote speakers: Barbara Kammerer Quayle from Seal Beach, California, and Dennis Gardin of Detroit, Michigan.

Kammerer shared her story of how she has coped with her burn and went on to help others survivors. She led the group for a session she calls “Tool Time” and encouraged everyone to be themselves and be proud of it! She provided tools to help burn survivors feel their best – positive self-image through positive self-talk, camouflage make-up for minimizing scars, books that encourage self-esteem, and a host of resources including materials and a chat room offered through the Phoenix Society.

Gardin also shared his story of recovery after being burned at 14 years of age. He facilitated sessions on family dynamics and coping skills and moderated open microphone sessions which provided an opportunity for delegates to share their feelings and stories. There were also presentations by Dr. E. Buchel, head of Plastic Surgery at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre, and Dr. R. Haydey, as well as several sessions led by local survivors which included various topics such as industrial accidents, family coping, and complementary healing.

The highlight of the conference was the panel presentation. Four burn survivors shared their unique stories of coping and survival. Their heart-wrenching and heart-warming testimonials provided everyone in attendance with hope and inspiration. Many reflected on the power and courage this opportunity provided in sharing their stories and look forward to other opportunities to meet with burn survivors in the future.

The enormous success of this conference was confirmed by the positive feedback received by the planning committee. We are hoping another Canadian Burn Survivor Conference will be held in the near future and encourage anyone whose life has been affected by a burn to attend. For more information about the Mamingwey Burn Survivor Society, please call (204) 787-3614.