Most people would never guess that Manpreet Braich is a burn survivor; that there was a day when doctors weren’t sure she would ever see with her left eye again.
Fast-forward six years, and the South Surrey woman is sharing her story and journey of recovery to help promote a fundraiser that benefits other survivors.
“Unless you know my story people have no idea that I have been in a burn accident,” Braich told Peace Arch News.
Braich was 23 when she suffered severe burns to her neck, face chest on Mother’s Day 2013, after a pressure cooker she was using to cook potatoes for a family barbecue exploded, sending boiling water at her face and a boiling-hot potato at her chest.
It was “similar to a bomb going off,” Braich told PAN by email Tuesday.
“Luckily, I was able to move in time for the lid to hit only the roof and miss my face.”
In shock, Braich remembers running to her room with the thought of “changing my wet shirt,” and how her skin stuck to it. Her family followed, calling 911 at the sight of their injured loved one.
“Next thing we know I am being injected with morphine and on a stretcher,” she said.
Braich remembers waking up at Surrey Memorial Hospital, heavily medicated and only able to open one eye. She has no recollection of being transferred to the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn, Plastic and High Acuity Unit at Vancouver General Hospital, where she was diagnosed with second-degree burns to her face and scalp.
“My hair had fallen out from the front of my face and my entire face was a charcoal color from the injury,” Braich writes.
Where the potato had stuck to her chest, Braich had third-degree burns.
“I was young, scared and completely devastated,” she said.
After the skin showed no signs of recovering on its own, Braich was scheduled for a skin graft; a procedure that presented her with a difficult decision – where to take the skin from: her upper thigh or the back of her scalp. The former would leave a visible scar, the latter would mean a harder recovery period.
“Having to face this decision at 23 it was really difficult for me – it was the worst thing that could have happened to me,” she said. “The day of the surgery, I changed my mind and decided to go with the invisible scar.”
While her physical scars have healed well, Braich said the recovery period was “very difficult.” She had to sleep sitting up, at an angle that wouldn’t cause her skin to stretch too much. Her family members took turns holding her head up.
The pain, she said, was both mental and physical, and she joined the Burn Fund survivors group for support.
“It’s hard to put into words just how difficult life felt at the time,” she said.
Braich said she is “so grateful” for all the people who were by her side.
Volunteering regularly for Burn Fund events, including the annual Bright Nights event in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, is one way she gives back.
This year, she’s also speaking up for the annual Hometown Heroes Lottery, and hopes her story “reaches out to those in my community and we can come together and help such a great cause.”
Launched in April, proceeds from the lottery support burn survivors across the province, helping fund specialized adult health services and research, as well as Burn Fund programs, including an annual camp for young burn survivors.
The deadline to buy Early Bird tickets is midnight Thursday (June 27). Tickets may be purchased online, at www.heroeslottery.com, or at the grand-prize show homes in South Surrey and Abbotsford, between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily.
The grand-prize winner will get their pick of nine prize-home packages, including one in South Surrey, at 1912 Laronde Dr. There is also a cash option of $2.1 million.
In all, there are 3,169 prizes worth a total of $3.4 million up for grabs.
The final ticket deadline is July 11. Cost is $75 for a three-pack, $100 for six tickets and $275 for 20 tickets.
A 50/50 is also being held, offering a jackpot of up to $2,220,000. Tickets are two for $15, six for $30 and 20 for $60. And, 209 prizes will be awarded in the Daily Cash Plus Game. Those tickets are two for $25 or six for $50.