January 20, 2021
Like a Phoenix Rising from the Ashes
As legend goes, the mythical creature the Phoenix resurrects from the flames and ashes after undue trauma, and so rises even more beautiful than before. Such is often the case of people that have faced immense trauma and hardship in life, and learned to face it, shift into their healing needs, and rise above their current circumstances. The recovery journey of burn survivors Tony Azzinaro and Kathryn Lindsay is one such example of the Phoenix bird rising. This couple has faced a myriad of challenges in their healing paths since their burn injury over a year ago and yet – how they have chosen to face each challenge, lean on their resources, and maintain an attitude of persistence and courage in healing has truly enabled them to rise above from the ashes of trauma.
Tony Azzinaro and Kathryn Lindsay were just getting started on their life together as a married couple. They had been a couple for many years, met in Canada, traveled together, and really connected with each other’s interests and passions. They were married in 2018. Kathryn had just gotten her permanent resident card all finalized. They were taking a celebratory trip in an RV around the USA. Just hours short of arriving back home on October 27, 2019, their RV caught on fire. Tony jumped out of the vehicle quickly through fire, and had to encourage Kathryn to jump through the burning doorway of the vehicle to safety. Thanks to some Good Samaritans who stopped at the scene of the accident and provided lifesaving assistance and called for additional help, the couple were assisted by EMS crews and Life-Flighted quickly to the hospital for further treatment – Tony to Banner UMC Tucson Hospital and Kathryn to the Arizona Burn Center at Valleywise Health.
That was their first battle in healing – to get coordinated care in the same hospital system, to allow both to comfort, encourage, and lean on each other in their physical and emotional healing ahead. Staff realized the importance of this matter, and Tony soon transferred to the Arizona Burn Center at Valleywise Health to be with Kathryn. In the ICU the Staff called their shared room the honeymoon suite and both underwent numerous surgeries to repair burns and fractures from the accident; Kathryn had burns to 24% of her body, as well as fractures to shoulder and knee, and Tony had burns to 17% of his body.
The surgeries and physical healing were another tremendous hurdle in healing for both, especially as both had significant burns to faces and arms and hands requiring ongoing surgical care and therapy management. These hospital times were extremely painful, as well as was the emotional duress caused by the loss of all Kathryn’s vital documents in the fire, the inability to communicate with family and friends due to loss of all phones and computers as well as minimal use of hands in healing, and additionally the added stressors of being in hospital during the holidays. Kathryn and Tony leaned on each other as much as possible, encouraging each other from across the room in therapy, comforting after a surgery, and telling a joke from time to time for a needed smile.
Another immense obstacle in Tony and Kathryn’s healing was also a common one for many burn survivors: insurance issues. With Kathryn’s recent change of residency and insurance differences, it was hard for her to get needed hospital and rehabilitation stays approved and covered. Tony was still healing himself, and so difficult for him to take on additional stressors of dealing with insurance issues and managing support needs. A preemptive discharge to home left both struggling to figure out how to manage daily dressings on their own, how to follow up with ongoing therapy still needed in healing, and how to deal with even the “simple” daily activities of life. Thankfully, Tony and Kathryn have that immense strength and persistence amidst the seemingly unconquerable, just like a Phoenix rising. They were able to reach out to incredible friends near and far, to help with connecting the dots for needs at discharge. Assistance with some home care, food shopping, therapy and dressing needs at times were able to be secured to help this couple continue forward in healing…toward living. In addition, one of their biggest advocates, both attest to, has been the Arizona Burn Foundation.
Tony and Kathryn met Lori Janik with the Arizona Burn Foundation early on in their hospital stay, and learned quickly about this organization and the invaluable help and supports that they can provide. Lori was able to assist in recreating a contacts list for follow up and to advise friends and family of the accident and supporting needs of the couple, as well as assisting them in initiating retrievals of vital documents and papers. Lori was able to be an advocate for support needs and further care throughout the hospital and rehabilitation stays, and well on into their outpatient healing. Early on while still in the hospital, Tony and Kathryn were connected with SOAR peer supporters to assist in processing their injuries and trying to develop daily reasonable expectations for their short term and long term care and support. Shortly after hospital discharge, they began attending the burn peer support group offered regularly by the Arizona Burn Foundation, and have kept in close contact throughout the weeks and months after. Kathryn’s road of healing has taken more time, more surgeries, and more therapies overall, and she especially has been grateful for how the Arizona Burn Foundation has assisted in some of the overwhelming costs of pressure garments and physical and occupational therapies even with health insurance. The Arizona Burn Foundation has been able to walk alongside this couple as a support in their recovery journey…and continues to do so today.
Tony and Kathryn just celebrated their first burniversary the end of 2020 – the anniversary of when their burn accident occurred. They have been able to go back and stand at the site of the accident, and walk through the immense feelings that surround the memories and life changes that happened there. In addition, they have been able to face these changes with bravery, perseverance, and smiles and humor too. As this couple has started to reengage with life again, in outdoor exploring together and returning to greater independency overall, they are left with an immense feeling of gratitude for what they have, as well as of strength. Kathryn recently had a piece of jewelry made from a found pottery shard and arrow head, collected with a dear friend in the desert, that she feels embodies their journey forward; yes, that jewelry, designed by Cynthia Downs of Tucson,AZ, details a Phoenix, pieced together of numerous parts, rising above the ashes. Just like them. Arizona Burn Foundation is proud to walk with Kathryn and Tony in their ongoing recovery; may this couple inspire you in your walk and heart as they do us!