At 8 years old, Kate Hickman was playing outside when her dress caught on fire from a burning candle. The flame quickly rose up her dress, engulfing her body in flames. She was rushed to the nearest Houston hospital as 40 percent of her body was covered in second and third degree burns.
Local doctors sent her to Shriners Hospitals for Children where she spent two months under doctors’ care because her burns were so severe.
“We knew we were immediately in good hands when we got to Shriners,” BYU freshman Hickman said. “They had to cut all my hair off and take skin from head, back and thighs for my stomach. It was really hard. It took about a year or two to fully recover. I still get surgeries for minor things, but now I am totally functional.”
Now, 10 years later, Hickman will be able to serve an LDS mission in Stockholm, Sweden.
“I am so excited,” Hickman said. “I can’t wait. When I saw my sister go on a mission and how much it impacted her life, I said, ‘I want to do that.'”
National Burn Awareness Week takes place Feb. 5-11, 2017. Burn injuries continue to be a leading cause of accidental injury and death in the United States, according to the American Burn Association (ABA). Hickman understands the importance of being careful and taking precautions.
“Something like that can happen so quickly and can happen to anyone,” Hickman said. “It is important to always have parental vision. Keeping your distance is also important. Because I have been through what I have, I am a lot more cautious and aware.”
The ABA also said “young adults ages 20-29 have a probability of burn injury that is roughly 1.5 times the risk of the general population.” It is important that students are cautious and don’t play with fire because of the potential heightened risks, according to Hickman.
“When people play with fire, it is almost offensive to me because of what I have experienced. Knowing the effect it can have and knowing that people don’t take it seriously is difficult,” Hickman said.
Students can get involved in National Burn Awareness Week by visiting the American Burn Association’s website. There they will become educated about prevention measures and how they can best inform others.
Hickman, like many other burn survivors, wondered why she had to go through what she did. But, as she has grown up, she has become much more accepting of her experience and has realized that her tragedy has actually become a blessing in disguise.
Alissa Perkins, another Shriners Hospital patient ambassador who had congenital fibular deficiency, and Hickman were able to meet with their families and share their story through a video Shriners Hospital created. Hickman said she is now more aware of others and their situations.
“I have been able to be much more compassionate and understanding of people,” Hickman said. “I am more empathetic because I almost lost my life so quickly. I try to find the good in everything and be more positive.”
Hickman also said the gospel of Jesus Christ has allowed her to overcome her trials.
“(The gospel) is what has really helped me shape this perspective that I have on my experience,” Hickman said. “I have realized that the atonement is not just used for repenting of your sins, but it is used to create a relationship with Jesus Christ and understand that he knows exactly how you feel.”
Although Hickman became upset over her burn experience, she said she has gained peace from God.
“I felt alone and misunderstood, but knowing that I could turn to Him and feel so much comfort and peace was such a game changer, really,” Hickman said.