On November 20, 2003, at the age of 4, my life changed forever. Joanna, my 7 year old sister & I were outside playing in our shed. The shed was both tall & wide and full of stacked hay bales which we loved to build forts with. Deciding our fort was too dark and not having any flashlights, we got a small candle and placed it on the bottom hay bale. I had just climbed up to the very top when my sister ran back in to the house to get something. Sitting there at the top of our fort, I heard my dog Max outside the shed and called to him.
Max came running in and as he scrambled up the hay bales the candle was knocked over. In the few short seconds it took Max to reach me at the top, the fire was spreading quickly. About that time Joanna had returned to the shed and saw the flames. She started screaming at me to “jump John jump!!” I was paralyzed with fear and too scared to jump due to the height I was at and seeing only flames below me. Joanna ran back to the house screaming that the shed was on fire and I was trapped inside. Leah, our oldest sister who was at our house babysitting all of us and her own baby, was helping my brother Luke with his homework. Franticly running out to the shed, she placed her baby on the ground asking Joanna where in the shed I was. She held her breath, closed her eyes and ran in to the burning shed. She did not see me the first time in. The second time she was able to locate me but was unable to pull me out because I felt so heavy. On her third try, and now burned over 30% of her body, she pulled with all of her strength and Max rolled off my body on to the floor. Max had been lying across my chest to protect me.
Now out in the yard, Leah could tell I was not breathing. She started screaming “please God let him breathe” and suddenly I gasp for a breath! Realizing I was still alive, she quickly picked me up running with me to the bathtub and turning on the cold water. My brother Luke had called 911 and the paramedics airlifted by helicopter to Le Bonhuer Children’s Hospital in Memphis. Once there, the doctors quickly accessed that I probably only had 8 hours to live. They told my parents that my best chance for survival was at Shriners Burn Hospital for Children in Galveston, TX. The Shriners flew a special burn team from Galveston, Texas to stabilize me. After stabilizing me, I was flown along with my mom and dad to Texas. There, I was put in a medically induced coma so doctors could deal with my fragile body that was covered in 3rd and 4th degree burns. I was kept in the coma for about 6 months with a trache and a feeding tube plus a bunch of other stuff. The trache and feeding tube remained in place for another 6 months. My mom stayed by my side pretty much the entire year while my dad went back to work in TN and took care of my other siblings.
Over these past 12 years I think I’ve had about 87 surgeries (or more) and countless days and hours of physical rehabilitation therapy. My burns have healed over time, but my scars from the day that changed my life… remain.
Since I was burned over 95% of my body, almost all of my skin is now covered by scars. However, the deepest scars were on my heart & soul and on who I thought I was. It took me a long time to realize that being burned did not mean the end, it was just a new beginning. The rest is my story of surviving, overcoming & healing my mental & emotional scars and who I am as a person today.
The worst emotionally traumatic years for me was at age 12 and 13 when I became a teenager and let people’s cruel words cripple me. I didn’t tell them what happened and why I looked the way I did. If anyone did ask me about the accident, I took offense. My father, who was trying to help in his own way, made me feel worse by telling me to suck it up. I knew he did not understand, no one did. People called me a monster, telling me to stay away and so many other horrible things. I withdrew and stayed away from everyone, even my own family because I felt that none of them understood what I was going through. When people felt sorry for me I hated hearing that! Keeping my emotions and pain hidden, I struggled with thoughts of ending my life. I had no desire for anything or to do anything. To deal with the emotional pain of feeling so alone, I became anorexic and started cutting myself secretly.
One year, I was invited to attend a survivors burn camp put on by the Shriners so I went. Each year I was invited to go, so I went and became a little more motivated and started looking forward to going. At one camp, they had something called Open Mic where people who have been burned shared their stories. It was there I heard a similar story to mine and it was a breakthrough moment for me. There was finally someone else out there who truly understood what I had been through, because they had gone through it as well. I learned that I was being selfish by the way I had been acting and that I could actually choose to not let others words hurt me. So I made a decision not to let STRANGERS HURTFUL WORDS AFFECT ME!!! Wow talk about feeling empowered!
When I was younger, feeling depressed, hated myself and contemplating suicide, I started listening to Colton Dixon. His songs were one of the things that motivated me to keep on going. The power of his music really strengthened me, and helped me find myself. I honestly don’t think I’d still be here if I had not found Colton’s music. “Scars remind us who we are” (quote by Colten Dixon). I really hope to meet Colton one day.Here is what I learned so far over the past 12 years:
You can choose to let their words hurt you, or you can choose to ignore them and get on with your life. People and their words have no power over you, unless you let them! It’s that simple. Unfortunately there will always be evil people and you can’t change that. The horribly cruel things they might say because all they see is scars of a broken person if you lash back with anger. The only thing you can do, is be the good to their evil & make your accident, situation, or whatever happened to you, into something positive and good. When you receive an insult, give back a compliment. Shine by encouraging others in your similar situation and inspire them to change. Do things that make you happy and things that help you love yourself more.
You have to love, and accept yourself for who you are or you can’t love and accept anyone else. You’re you, you can’t be anyone else, and no one can be you. Love the new you and never want to go back! There’s no going back to what you were, so why even try. Let other people be inspired by you! Embrace your difference, make people want to be you & be their inspiration. We all have a purpose. No one else can fulfill your purpose but you. You can choose to be a victim or a victor of your situation and can rise up and overcome it.Important things I want you to know about me and the accident:
- I no longer let my burns, or stranger’s words, insults or criticism eat my life away
- I beat anorexia with bodybuilding
- I find friends who will build me up and help build my foundation strong, so when I stand alone I won’t fall
- I don’t let people’s negative words hurt me anymore
- I’m an overcomer
- I am more than what I was
- I wouldn’t be the strong and confidant person I am today without the accident
- I wouldn’t know all the great people I know now
- I am a burn survivor and a proud burn thriver! My scars show “I survived”
- I believe that everything happens for a reason
- I don’t let depression own me anymore
- Hip hop & dancing
- social media
- hanging with friends and family
- weight lifting & body building
- video games
- playing with my cat
- 4wheeling at my sister’s house
- animals of all kinds
- being a great artist with my drawings
- becoming an actor, tv, movies, you name it
- Building up my YouTube Channel subscribers –currently around 1000 & rising
- being a good Christian
- doing well in my homeschooled studies
- going to college & maybe study psychology to learn about emotions & how to best help others
- encouraging & helping people like Singer Colton Dixon who really helped me even though we have never met
There are 1.5 million people burned globally per year (that’s a raw estimate), and more than half of those people are hiding. I know what they’re feeling, and it just doesn’t have to be that way. Also, most people don’t know how to react when they see a burn survivor – this causes the burn survivors to hide, because they hate the reactions. I think if I can be a part of educating the public & helping spread awareness, to help build up other burn survivors with confidence to go on about their days shamelessly in public. I’d just love to be the person to help make that happen.
Quote by John Quinn ~ “No one deserves to be unhappy in the way they look, because we’re all beautifully unique. Just sometimes other flowers get more colors (like us, people who have gone through tragedy) and we just don’t think we fit in with the rest of the flowers. But the truth is, we are the most beautiful of all the flowers. So embrace your different colors, you’re pretty, there’s no one else like you.”The coolest thing you may not know about me…
I am a Batman fanatic and someday I am going to be in a Batman movie or series… You just watch and see… To the Batmobile!
It was Johnny’s lifelong dream to meet Colton Dixon & on September 28, 2017, the Courageous Faces Foundation was able to make that dream come true!