Burn survivors from the Phoenix region have been training to trek Piestewa Peak in order to prepare for their upcoming climb of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa.
They have faced excruciating physical rehabilitation, several surgeries, and life-threatening traumas. Eight burn survivors, including girls as young as 11 and 12, are now banding together to take on one more challenge: climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain.
They are a part of the Valleywise Health Foundation’s “Courage Rising” campaign, which aims to support the new Arizona Burn Center at Valleywise Health in Phoenix, Arizona, and demonstrate that burn survivors can achieve anything. From June 13 to June 26, they will climb Mount Kilimanjaro with supporters and medical specialists from the burn hospital.
A program dubbed Courage Rising, which aims to generate funds for the new Arizona Burn Center, is what led to the trek in Africa.
Isabella McCune, a 12-year-old who has experience climbing mountains, is one of the hikers. McCune had a lot of challenges to overcome even before she began hiking trails.
“On St. Patrick’s Day in 2017, there was a community get-together with a fire pit. When my father tried to fire it with a gas can that didn’t have a flame holder, the fume ignited returned to the can, and the can exploded “McCune stated.
As a result, 65% of McCune’s was burnt. She was in the hospital for a grueling nine months.
I was in shock when it happened, so I didn’t feel anything, but I do remember at the hospital how much suffering I endured, McCune recalled.
A visit from Taylor Swift, her favorite musician, made her hospital days a bit more cheerful.
I was just in disbelief when I saw several security personnel enter the building through the doors and then [Swift] enter my room, recalled McCune.
Five years have passed since that tragic day, and McCune is getting ready to go up Mount Kilimanjaro with a group of fellow burn survivors.
The group has been practicing for the walk by ascending mountains from the Grand Canyon to Bear Mountain throughout Arizona.
“Our burn community was one of the things we wanted to highlight. Moreover, if we work together, what can we accomplish? “asked Valleywise Health Foundation’s Nate Lowrie. We have individuals like Isabella who are only illustrative of what it means to live freely despite having had a severe traumatic event.
McCune claims that spending time in the outdoors and interacting with other burn survivors assist her progress. She takes it one step at a time, just like scaling a mountain.
No matter what you’ve gone through or how difficult it is, McCune added, “there are ways to distract yourself, get away from it.”