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Burn Survivor Foregoes Fireworks on July 4

Burn patient Jordan Aguilar.

Independence Day will never be the same for Jordan Aguilar.

While most people celebrate with fireworks, Aguilar avoids the pyrotechnic displays, choosing to stay indoors on the holiday. In July 2012, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time when a fireworks mortar tipped over at a party, burning her severely.

"The fireworks weren't correctly sorted. They were all mixed in together," says Aguilar. "When one was lit, they all went off unexpectedly, going everywhere."

She was rushed by ambulance to The University of Kansas Health System's Gene and Barbara Burnett Burn Center, with burns covering nearly 20% of her body.

Aguilar suffered 2nd- and 3rd-degree burns extending from her left hand up to her shoulder blades and back and on both legs. She had a skin graft and a 17-day hospital stay that included intensive physical therapy to help her walk again.

"I was miserable," she says. "My injuries required extensive wound washouts and bandage changes. There's no way to describe how tremendous the pain is."

Regaining her stride

Returning home with a walker, Aguilar worked diligently to walk on her own. She was determined to begin her senior year of nursing school unassisted and on her own 2 feet. "Who wants to start their senior year of college with a walker? I didn't. I struggled to get rid of it before the first day of school."

Aguilar praises the staff at the Burnett Burn Center for the care she received as a patient and as a person. "I had excellent care," she says. "In fact, my experience as a burn patient is what led me to apply for a nursing position at the hospital."

Surgeons Michelle De Souza, MD, and Dhaval Bhavsar, MD, treated Aguilar's injuries. "They were terrific," she says. "Between my doctors and the nurses, I would, without a doubt, recommend the burn center to anyone."

Two years out from her injuries, Aguilar is still healing. She has significant scarring and will undergo future procedures, including microdermabrasion.

As for her plans this July 4th, she won't take part in any festivities involving fireworks. She says people who enjoy fireworks should attend a professional fireworks show and not try to light any themselves.

"People aren't as careful as they should be, and serious injuries can happen easily," she says. "It takes just half a second and your whole world is changed."

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