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Saskatoon burn survivor inspires and starts support network for other victims

WATCH ABOVE: It was a fluke accident that changed her life in an instant and has made her the person she is today. A woman who was burnt as a child now shares her story to let other know they're not alone.

It was a fluke accident that changed Kim Sutherland’s life in an instant and has made her the person she is today.

Her story began more than 26 years ago and she remembers the day as though it was yesterday.

READ MORE: Parents warn of fire pit dangers after Edmonton toddler suffers serious burns

“I was 11 and babysitting,” said Sutherland.

“My shirt touched an element on the stove, the back of my shirt and it just went up.”

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The children she was watching were asleep at the time and she credits a lesson she learnt just two weeks prior with saving her life.

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“The Saskatoon Fire Department had been at my school for a fire and life safety demonstration,” she said.

“They had come and done the whole ‘stop, drop and roll’ and I thought I’m never going to use this.”

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READ MORE: Have an escape route planned in case of fire

Sutherland was wrong and is now sharing to her story to let others know they’re not alone.

We spoke outside the theatre of Circle Drive Alliance Church where a magic show was unfolding inside.

Money from the performance helps fund several initiatives including the Saskatchewan Burn Support Network started by Sutherland about two years ago.

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Jay Protz with the Saskatchewan Professional Fire Fighters Association Burn Fund described Sutherland to us, outside of the event.

“Ambitious, I suppose would be a good start, I don’t think you can describe Kim in any other word to be honest with you,” he said.

“She’s an amazing person.”

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READ MORE: Unexpected ways kids can get scalded and how to prevent them

You would have to be, as she sustained burns to 40 per cent of her body as the result of her accident and was released on Christmas Eve after a two month stay in hospital.

Initially, Sutherland required 13 different skin graft surgeries. In total, she’s had to endure about two dozen procedures and will require more reconstructive surgery down the road.

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Her network helps her lean on others for support when she really needs it, in turn others come to her to help with their recovery.

It’s a give and take because sometimes all someone really wants says Sutherland is to connect with a person who knows exactly what they’re going through.

“We understand that the health region is so burdened with looking after the physical injury – they can’t look after the emotional injury and sometimes that’s the worst of the two.”

The network helps not only the victim with their healing journey but their family as well.

The need for such a support group, sadi Protz, is greater than most people would think.

“Over the last five years, we’ve sent about 763 people out of the province either to Edmonton or Winnipeg for major burn recovery.”

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For Sutherland, one of the most difficult parts of her recovery has been her scars. For the longest time she would hide her scars and said high school was an extremely awkward time.

She has now discovered her scars are a symbol of survival.

“It comes to down to being comfortable and saying I’m ok with who I am,” said Sutherland.

“Sometimes all you need is someone to relate to you and say I understand, I’m empathetic to how you’re feeling, I get it and it’s OK.”

Especially when it comes to children in the network.

“I really hope that somebody like me can be an example for them and say you know what, don’t worry about it, your scars are beautiful.”

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A lesson – everyone else should remember too.

More information on the Saskatchewan Burn Support Network can be found on their Facebook page.

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