Jim Burjan, who lived in La Salle for over 25 years, credits the Mamingwey Burn Survivor Society members with helping him regain his spirit and will to move forward.
As he’s done for the past three years, Burjan will join his sons Kevin and Bobby, their wives and young children and other family members to participate in the annual Go for the Burn Run on Sat., April 28 starting at 9 a.m. at Assiniboine Park.
Last year, about 280 participants in the run raised approximately $9,000. For Burjan it’s an enjoyable way to give back to an organization that’s supported him and his family in his recovery after he sustained third degree burns to about a third of his body.
On May 2, 2011, Burjan was training a new employee at an aircraft refuelling company in Winnipeg where he was a maintenance supervisor. He was underneath a vehicle, removing a valve when he was sprayed with fuel which was quickly ignited by a nearby lightbulb. Burjan recalls that he was able to roll out from under the vehicle and get out a door before rolling on the ground. A fellow employee used a fire extinguisher to put out Burjan’s burning clothing.
He said he doesn’t remember much of the next month and a half when he was in the Health Sciences Centre’s burn unit. He underwent painful procedures required to remove sections of skin from his body to graft onto his burned legs, arms, hands and feet. He ended up having the pinkie finger of his right hand amputated.
Kevin, who lives in La Salle, remembers getting the phone call about his father’s accident. He was working with his brother Bobby that day and they raced to the hospital together. Burjan was just being rushed into emergency.
"It was unbelievable," Kevin said, referring to Burjan’s injuries.
One of the HSC staff members involved in Burjan’s care was occupational therapist Barbara-Anne Hodge. She now chairs the Mamingwey Burn Survivor Society and also volunteers on the board of the Firefighters’ Burn Fund Inc. using the experience she gained from her 30 years of working with burn survivors.
Hodge, who also lives in La Salle, believes that a big part of burn survivors’ recovery comes through the opportunity to interact with other survivors and medical staff who specialize in treating burn patients.
As well as educating the public on burn and fire prevention, the Firefighters Burn Fund and Mamingwey Burn Survivor Society hold an annual conference and also help pay for local burn survivors and family members to attend this and an international conference held in the States.
Burjan and his sons were able to attend the international conference a few months after his discharge from hospital. There the three men found the support and inspiration they needed.
"I felt extremely lonely. Burn injuries are quite unique," Burjan said. "It was overwhelming to see how far other survivors had come. It gave me a whole lot of hope."
While he volunteered at the first two Go for the Burn Runs, last year Burjan walked five kilometres with his family and friends. He’s looking forward to doing the same this year.
"The kids have a blast. They know it’s for Grandpa," Kevin said.
Hodge said the 10-kilometre timed run is sanctioned by the Manitoba Runners’ Association and can serve as training for anyone planning on entering a marathon later in the season.
She said, in addition to raising money for the Mamingwey Burn Survivor Society, the run/walk promotes health and fitness and brings survivors and their families together.
"It’s intentional that it’s held in April so it’s not too hot," Hodge said, adding that some burn survivors’ sweat glands are affected by their burns.
Community journalist — The Headliner
Andrea Geary is the community journalist for The Headliner. Email her at email@example.com Call her at 204-697-7124