Kimberly has worked as a fire commissioner since 2020. Giving back to her community and being an integral part of a fire department has given her the gratification of feeling like she makes a difference. She is a people person and enjoys hearing other people’s life stories. She enjoys watching documentaries and true story movies and traveling with her husband. There are only 6 US states and 2 Canadian provinces to which they have not visited. They have had the privilege of exploring Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Mexico, Grand Cayman, Caribbean, Ireland, and Netherlands. She enjoys baking, gardening, and cooking, using fresh herbs and vegetables, and trying new recipes with various ingredients for her family. They have created a rating scale for her experiments as “make again” or “this was really good once.” She said she appreciates the honest feedback as it helps to refine her skills. In the summer they also enjoy time on their boat and kayaking. If she is not on the boat, she enjoys their vintage Mazda Miata convertible. She also considers herself immeasurably blessed with friends.
Kimberly's Burn Injury Journey
At 17, Kimberly experienced third-degree burns over 65% of her body when fuel was poured over an open fire pit, causing an explosion of fire to engulf her. Her 19-year-old boyfriend died from his own injuries in the incident. She spent 95 days in the Harborview Burn Center in Seattle. 8 weeks were spent in the ICU fighting for her life. While the physical challenges were enormous, she notes that the mental challenges were the most difficult to overcome. After being discharged from the hospital, she was unprepared for the cruelty of people or the insults they would throw. During her recovery, she spent many months in a valley of depression and hopelessness.
Kimberly came to the realization that to persevere she needed to accept her “new normal”, stand up for herself, and start living again. She started speaking about her injury openly at high schools, universities, churches, and burn conferences. After getting involved with the American Burn Association and the Phoenix Society she became a certified Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery (SOAR) volunteer. She has even served on the HMC Burn Center Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) and held school re-entry assemblies. Through these organizations and other community volunteer programs, she shed her cocoon and flourished. Helping others was a tremendous source of personal healing. Her favorite quote is from Chuck Swindoll; “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond.” She finds it especially true for anyone who has experienced trauma.
Why does Kimberly think people should consider referring to the MSKTC resources?
When Kimberly was burned, back in 1984, there were very few resources available. All she had access to focus on was wound care post-discharge. School or work re-entry programs did not exist to assist with the traumatic transition of re-joining society after 3 months in the hospital. MSKTC has answers and help for all burn-related questions. There are resources for the basics such as itching, and more personal topics such as intimacy and everything in between; food, exercise, PTSD, etc. Some things are difficult to talk to others about, but you can get the answers and help you need from the website. In recovery, it is also helpful to talk to others who have walked this path, and MSKTC provides resources to connect with others as well. Kimberly was surprised and delighted that there were resources she could share with her friend who has multiple sclerosis in the form of wheelchair options. The website is useful and user-friendly, and if you do not find what you are looking for, they have a question box you can use to reach their team of responsive professionals.
Why does Kimberly want to be an MSKTC ambassador
In her early days of recovery, Kimberly felt lost, discouraged, and struggled with her survival. She crossed numerous stepping stones before she was able to reach a place of acceptance regarding her visible scars. When she was able to turn her internal dialogue from negative to positive, she decided to dedicate herself to educating the public about burns and advocating for people after a burn injury. As an ambassador, she can continue to be a source of encouragement, compassion, and assistance to her fellow burn survivors. She feels that the best way to support others is to walk beside them so that no one feels alone or that they must overcome their burns on their own. There are a lot of people in the MSKTC Ambassador program who are available to help and countless resources are at your fingertips through their site.
What has Kimberly done as an MSKTC ambassador?
When Kimberly gives presentations, she is sure to include the MSKTC web address and pertinent information as one of her vital resources. She is sharing the MSKTC resources through her social media and has reached out to colleagues who work in the fields of traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries to inform them of its efficacy. Kimberly reviewed and provided feedback on the MSKTC resources to ensure they are user-friendly and relevant to burn survivors.