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Manitoba burn survivors share struggles, hope at annual conference

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Around 100 Manitoba burn survivors gathered at the Mamingwey Burn Survivor Society's annual conference to share their stories. Kevin Hirschfield reports – Oct 20, 2018

It was the first time 18-year-old Dawson Blahey from Arborg, Man., shared his life-changing story with a large group.

Blahey suffered third-degree burns to his face, legs, chest and feet after a campfire explosion when he was just four years old.

“My dad was pouring fuel, and it was humid out and it blew up,” Blahey said.

But the large group to whom Blahey spoke on Saturday is one that can understand what he has been through.

Dawson Blahey suffered third-degree burns on his body when he was just four years old.
Dawson Blahey suffered third-degree burns on his body when he was just four years old.

They are members of the Mamingwey Burn Survivor Society, which gathers for an annual conference every year. The society hears from doctors and other health professionals about ways to cope with their injuries, and they also get a chance to share their stories with others in the same boat.

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“There’s a bond when you can talk to someone else who went through a similar experience,” Mamingwey chair Barbara-Anne Hodge said.

“When you’re burned, there’s physical pain, permanent scars, and to meet with others who have walked that path is very powerful.”

Mamingwey is an Ojibway term meaning “butterfly.”

“A butterfly starts as a caterpillar and emerges out of the cocoon. We apply that to our burn survivors, and the white bandages are the cocoon,” Hodge said.

Blair Lundie came out of those bandages three years ago after he was burned in a high-voltage explosion.

“A panel fell over on a high-voltage system, and the panel arced like a lightning bolt, and I turned away just in time to block the impact,” Lundie said.

Blair Lundie was burned in a high-voltage explosion.
Blair Lundie was burned in a high-voltage explosion.

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While he still struggles to deal with his new reality, groups like Mamingwey are a huge help for him.

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“They are my support because I can talk amongst them, and they understand what I’m feeling on an everyday basis,” Lundie said.

For Blahey, breaking out of his cocoon for the first time is an experience he doesn’t regret.

“Don’t be scared to talk about it,” said Blahey. “Talking about it is the best thing you can do,”

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Click to play video 'Edmonton-area teen returns from unique camp for burn victims' Edmonton-area teen returns from unique camp for burn victims
Edmonton-area teen returns from unique camp for burn victims – Oct 14, 2018