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  • Writer's pictureAthanasia Houvarda

Receiving Support on Our Path to Healing

2014 - Thessaloniki, Greece.

I was on a relentless search for support, knocking on the doors of every fire station and every plastic surgery ward in Thessaloniki, only to be met with dead ends. The response I got from everyone I spoke to was the same...

"What support?"

My heart sank.

Experiencing a burn trauma feels like you are thrust into a world of unbearable pain, both physical and emotional. Fear, uncertainty, grief, and loss are only a few of the emotions that take over your life. In moments like these, support becomes a lifeline.

Support is the empathetic voice that whispers, "You're not alone." It is the bridge that connects you with those who have walked the same path, and who understand the unique struggles and triumphs of being a burn survivor, building the foundation for strong and meaningful connections within a community.

So, how can it be that there is no support for people experiencing such trauma in their lives?

I was desperate for a lifeline. This is why I decided to look for support beyond Greece, which is how I was introduced to my new family.

My Burn Family.

I vividly remember stumbling upon a social media group for burn survivors, asking them to join the community and immediately being greeted and welcomed by the members.

The first person who welcomed me is the person that today I am proud to call my husband! Dan Plexman.

The genuine interest and concern I received from day one, the unwavering support and inclusiveness, the open sharing, and the information about resources gave me hope and a sense of belonging.

Through this group, I learned about the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors and the World Burn Congress (WBC) that was coming up in October of the same year.

Reading more about the Phoenix Society and what they offered, the peer support, and the tools available so I could navigate the unknown territory that was now my new reality, sparked the desire to attend the conference and connect with the community. So, I began planning and organizing my first trip to the US!

2014 - October

I was boarding a plane for Anaheim, California, to attend my first World Burn Congress. I never attended a conference before, and I didn't know what to expect.

But the moment I arrived, it was like stepping into heaven. Over 900 people from every corner of the world, each carrying stories of strength and resilience, greeted each other with beaming smiles.

My name tag spotted a little red heart, indicating that this was my first time there and indicating a silent plea for connection and encouragement. At that moment, I knew I had found the support I so desperately needed.

2023 - October

Fast forward nine years later, and I am gearing up to stand before my burn community at this year's World Burn Congress in National Harbor, MD. On October 6th, I'll lead a healing art session on coping through mindfulness.

My excitement is profound. After years of receiving support, I look forward to reuniting with my burn family and paying it forward. It is my turn to offer support by introducing my 4-step method to mind our mind. A simple and easy technique that will help the participants decrease anxiety and increase mindfulness. It will quiet the chaos in our minds, making space for a heart-to-heart discussion with our true selves. It's an absolute honour to be part of the Phoenix Society and to be considered and trusted with such an important role.

Thank you, Phoenix!

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