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Salamanders Young Burn Survivors > Your Own Stories > Joni Marie Duck's Story

Burn Survivor Joni Marie Duck's Story

Joni's Burn

The day of Decmeber 7th, 2003 started out as a normal day for me. It was a Sunday so I went to church that morning. My car was acting up and this made my boyfriend at the time, Charles or "Chuck" mad because he had recently paid for me to get my car fixed. He told me that he wasn't going to have my car break again and his money that he had spent for it to be fixed to go to waste. I was kind of upset with him because he insisted on fixing my car himself when he knew that he really didn't know much about cars (he's very very stubborn). That day we ate dinner at his house and he took me to church that night. After church I had choir Christmas Cantata practice until about 10:00. Chuck picked me up from Cantata practice and we went back to his house where my car was. I was pretty upset with him and we argued about some stuff for awhile. It was pretty cold so he decided he would build a fire in his wood stove. He went into the lving room and I stayed in his bedroom while he was gone. When he came back we continued our discussion/argument. We both noticed that it hadn't gotten any warmer in the house so he said that the fire had probably gone out. He went back into the living room and this time I followed him. When we got to the living room he said, "Yes, the fire has gone out." I asked Chuck if he had a poker and he told me that there was one above the wood stove. I began poking the fire and while I did, Chuck went outside for something. He returned with a container normally used to carry gas in his hands and when I saw the container I immediately thought "woah" and backed up away from the woodstove. When I backed up I lost view of Chuck and next thing I know, I feel a gust of air and look down to see my pants on fire and I hear Chuck screaming. This sent a panic about me and my only instinct was to get outside. I took off running down the hallway toward the front door and I tried to get it open. I couldn't open it because it was locked and I've always had trouble opening this door when it was locked. I screamed after Chuck that I couldn't get the door open and ran into his bedroom (next to the front door). I still had the instinct to get outside and I ran with all my might into a big window to try and break it. Chuck had finally made his way down the hall and got my attention and opened the front door. As soon as he opened the door I ran out it and fell to the ground and began rolling. At this time Chuck's roommate and his girlfriend were outside with me. The commotion had awoken them and they were trying to put the fire out by hitting me with a blanket or something of that sort. I rolled around and the fire still wouldn't go out. I don't remember this part but Chuck and his roommate told me that Chuck ran outside and put the fire out with a fire extinguisher. Then everything went quiet. I remember Chuck telling Brandon (his roommate) to make sure there was nothing on fire in the house and I screamed to Chuck to call an ambulance. He didn't call an ambulance initially ... he called an older friend of ours, David. Then he asked me if I should call my Dad ... I told him that he BETTER call my Dad. The time was about 11:00pm or so. I remember that it wasn't very long until David arrived. He covered my top part that I wasn't burned on with blankets so I wouldn't go into shock and we waited for the ambluance. I started drifting off as David talked to me and tried to keep me calm. I remember that David's son, Andrew, had to try to get Chuck calmed down to keep him from going into shock as well. He kept telling him that he needed to sit down and it was an absolute fight to get him to listen. It took about 45 minutes to an hour for an ambulance to finally arrive that night. I tried to get up on my own to get on the stretcher (I'm pretty stubborn as well, I didn't want them to touch me). The ambulance took me to the Malden (Missouri) airport and from there I was transported by helicopter to St. John's Mercy in St. Louis. I don't remember anything after getting into the helicoptor.

When I woke up I was in a very very bright room and I had 2 or 3 people around me. I remember them telling me that my dad and the pastor of my church would be at the hospital in a little while and that I should just relax and they needed to ask me some questions. I was wondering why my dad and the pastor of my church would be traveling to the hospital together since they didn't even know each other. It turned out that it was David and the pastor of my church that were on their way. They asked me again what had happened that night and I told them everything ... that night is still as vivid now, a year later, as it was then. They also asked me my home address and my social security number. They were surprised that I was able to give them all of this information so well after going through all of it and being so "drugged". I remember just wishing they would leave me alone and let me go to sleep. The nice nurse woman told me she would be back in a little bit. I remember trying to raise up to see "the damage" and seeing just charred stuff. It scared me so I just leaned back and looked up at the bright ceiling.

The next time I woke up was to the sound of my grandmother's voice. I looked around the room and there were several people there. I saw my pastor, my grandma and my dad. Since my little brother was only 11 he was not allowed to come and see me (you must be 13 to visit the burn unit). I also remember a male nurse scaring me half to death just shoving the feeding tube up my nose without warning and telling me to swallow ... I was scared and the tube didn't get in so he tried again ... I remember thinking, "well at least this time I have warning". I hated that thing so bad. I remember feeling so heavy and uncomfortable and everyone making such a fuss over my body temperature and blood pressure and heartbeat or something. Something about my blood pressure being too low and my body temperature being too high and my heart rate being too above normal (160). I didn't know what to expect or what was going to happen.

The doctor said that I was burned on 26% of my body, 3rd degree. I was 17 and a senior in highschool. I was so afraid of failing school (it was the week before semester finals) and not being able to graduate. I was also so upset because I had been complaining that the weekend after the 7th would be such a busy weekend for me. We had a Madrigal Dinner performance at the school on Saturday night ... on Saturday morning was my ACT test and on Sunday morning was my Christmas Cantata performance at the church (that I had a big solo/duet in). I remember just crying because I knew I wasn't going to get to do the stuff that I had dreaded but so looked forward to.


I hated the dressing changes. The dressings would always stick and it seemed like the nurses thought it was a game or something to see how much they could make me scream. They gave me enough drugs alright but it never seemed enough to make the pain go away. It hurt so bad and it's a hurt that no other person could ever understand unless they were burned themselves. I would just cry and curse and scream and pray ... I never want to ever go through that sort of pain ever, ever again. I had dressing changes twice a day and I dreaded every second of it. And on top of that, after going through that sickening pain they actually wanted me to eat! I simply could not eat even though they tried to force me. I would cry at them that I coudn't eat because every time I tried to take a swallow of the food the feeding tube in my nose would slide and it would hurt my nose and throat. They didn't like to listen and didn't understand.

I had surgery on the Thursday after I arrived at the hospital. I remember being so upset because they had given me so much crushed ice all the days then they denied me any drink at all that whole night before. I just couldn't understand it but now I know it was to get me ready for surgery. I remember on the way to surgery I was being wheeled in my bed and I was just feeling so sick (but it was nothing new, I had felt sick the whole time). We got on the elevator and I remember looking back and seeing a woman in a wheelchair and she was holding a baby and I asked her about it and I looked up at the nurse and said "I'm going to puke" and I did ... she knew I had been feeling sick and had a bag or something for me to puke in. I remember them pushing me down the hall and I saw my daddy and he smiled and sat there with me for awhile talking to me. The nurse came over and put something into my IV and I knew that she had given me something strong because I had felt just a "whoosh" over me.

When I woke up I remember passing the waiting room and seeing my mom and my dad's friend Darrell. I remember just smiling to them as I passed then closing my eyes again.

The pain was different this time. It was more of a stinging pain like when you cut yourself shaving. I remember them moving my bed for me to sit up or lay back and I would yell at them to quit or to move the bed slower so that it wouldn't stretch so fast. My mouth was so dry and I wanted something to drink and the only thing they would ever give me was sprite. Now the taste of sprite sickens me because it gives me flashbacks of the hospital and the burns. There were so many cards and get well gifts from so many people from my hometown. There were several visitors even though my hometown was 4 hours away. I just thought this was so great. I have had such low self-esteem over the years and felt so unloved but I didn't feel unloved at that time. I felt so much love from my community, my school, my church, my friends and my family.

I remember my first steps after the surgery. I believe it may have been on Tuesday after the surgery. There weren't very many steps and I remember how tiring they were. I couldn't believe how I just took something as simple as walking across the room for granted before the burns. I remember feeling so great when I had walked to the doorway and stopping and smiling as I looked at my physical therapist. She smiled too but then she said, "Now, you know you have to walk back." I hadn't thought about that, haha. After I had gotten back over to my "living quarters" I asked her if I could sit in the recliner. She told me that would be fine so I sat down and watched tv for awhile until my visiting time arrived. I stayed in the recliner until after visiting time when I got a new nurse for the night and I dreaded so much getting up and getting back into the bed. So I asked her if I could sleep in the recliner. She came in to check on me that night and that's the night my temperature started to go up a lot. The PT wasn't too happy about me sleeping in the recliner because I seemed to be stuck in it. She had to have two people spot me as she pulled me out and I was stuck in a near-sitting position as I went back to my bed.

I was extremely lucky. I was only in the hospital for 2 weeks and was released in time for Christmas last year. I ended up breaking up with my boyfriend not because of the burns (because I'm pretty sure it was an accident, though a stupid one) but because of his lying that went on way before and way after the accident. Things have been hard for me but I know I have the Lord and he will comfort me in the good and bad times. I sometimes go looking for testamonies worse than mine to humble myself and let myself know that it could be a lot worse for me. I am so thankful for the testamonies of people that know what I have been through on this website and others that can help me through this tough year and the many more tough ones ahead. I am now 18-years-old and I graduated from High School in May 2004 (just as scheduled) and I am a college student. I have another surgery scheduled for December 20th, 2004 so pray for me that this operation be successful. God bless and I love you all!

Joni Marie Duck - Burn Survivor

Copyright © Joni Marie Duck (December 2004) All Rights Reserved.