Diane Gardner shares her story of being a burn survivor with Peace Arch News Friday. (Camryn Traa photo)

VIDEO: White Rock woman shares story of survival after terrible accident in 1978

Burn survivor’s scars now a ‘badge of honour’

Doctors from Vancouver General Hospital’s burn unit didn’t expect White Rock’s Diane Gardner to survive.

It was 1978. Gardner was in the cabin of a 40-foot boat, docked in Campbell River to refuel. She was 16 years old.

Unbeknownst to her, there was an broken fuel line on the boat, and 400 gallons of gasoline was exposed.

The engine turned over and the boat exploded, hurling Gardner 20 feet from the cabin off the aft of the boat, into the water.

She was pulled out and rushed to hospital in Campbell River, while her skin, she explained, was “hanging off my body in shreds, like streamers.”

She was then taken to the burn unit at Vancouver General Hospital by aircraft. She had second- and third-degree burns on 90 per cent of her body and ended up spending three months in hospital.

Gardner now uses her story to highlight the importance of the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund.

If only, she said, the fund was available when she had her terrible accident. Coincidentally, it was started the same year of her injury.

Watch Gardner describe what happened that day in 1978:

Although the explosion happened in a matter of seconds, the impact is a “lifelong journey.”

“Burns are not just the pain, disfigurement and injury itself. It’s the emotional and psychological injury. I kind of believe if you don’t deal with things, those will come back to haunt you,” she told Peace Arch News Friday.

After Gardner healed, she “got on with my life,” and was able to graduate high school with her friends. She went on to study at Simon Fraser University, graduating with a degree in communications before spending many years working for an advertisement agency.

With a glowing smile and light glistening off her vibrant green eyes, Gardner spoke of the support and programs made possible through the burn fund.

“I don’t even have words to describe it. It just fills my heart, it’s come such a long way,” she said.

Programs Gardner highlighted are the Future is Mine, and a summer camp for children who suffer from burn injuries.

The Future is Mine is an adult peer-to-peer support program. The group of burn survivors participate in various family events, such as baseball games and pumpkin patch visits.

The most significant aspect, she said, is speaking to others who experienced a similar injury.

“It really gave me courage to wear my injuries and a scars like a badge of honour.”

A chance interaction with another burn survivor, in a Penticton Starbucks seven years ago, planted a seed.

Despite Gardner not having visible scars, a woman working at the coffee shop grabbed her and recognized that she was a burn survivor. The woman, a survivor herself, asked Gardner if the two could speak after her shift.

The woman explained the burn fund and the programs it offers.

“It was life changing… I thought about it, and you know, that was 25-30 years ago, why do I need to connect with other burn survivors now? That was a long time ago. But again, a burn injury is a lifelong thing, it’s not just an injury and you get over it.”

The burn fund has a bursary program that provides grants to survivors who wish to go back to school. Gardner said it also sends a few people each year to the Canadian Burn Survivors Conference. Gardner was selected as one of the people from B.C. to attend the June 27 event in Halifax. The event will come to Vancouver in 2020.

The recognition makes Gardner somewhat of an ambassador for the provincial organization.

“I’m honoured, and really excited to see what I’m going to learn,” she said, adding she’s never been to a burn survivors conference before.

The woman from Penticton will also be there. The two haven’t seen other since meeting in the Starbucks.

Asked if she was going to give the woman a big hug when the meet again, Gardner didn’t hesitate.

“No kidding, oh my God.”

Gardner shared her story of survival in the backyard of a Hometown Heroes Lottery prize home.

The four-bedroom Crescent Beach home is one of the grand prizes of this year’s lottery, located at 12768 26B Avenue. The 3,800 sq. ft. property includes more than $95,000 in furnishings and electronics, a Coast Spas Outdoor Package worth more than $20,000, and a 2018 Audi Q5 Progressiv or $50,000.

Proceeds of ticket sales go toward specialized adult health services and research for British Columbians at VGH and UBC Hospital, GF Strong Rehab Centre, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and Vancouver Community Health Services.

Funds also support the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund, including the annual camp for young survivors, something Gardner said she wishes was available when she was a girl.

Another grand prize includes a 3,600 sq-foot home in Ocean Park, located at 1569 130 St. The four-bedroom home prize package includes a 2018 Jaguar F Pace 30T SUV, 2019 Jaguar F Type V6 Coupe SR1 Convertible, cash for tax for one year plus $100,000.

Other grand prize homes are located in Vancouver, Lake Country, Sooke and Penticton. There’s also an option to take $2.1 million in cash.

Tickets for the lottery are on sale now. There are 445,000 tickets available. Packages of three cost $75, six for $100 and 20 for $275. There are also 50/50 Plus Lottery tickets, which start at two for $15, plus a Daily Cash Plus game. Tickets for that cost $20.

The maximum prize payout for the 50/50 is $1,110,000. The lottery is dependent on the number of tickets sold.

To learn more about the 2018 Hometown Heroes Lottery, and to purchase tickets, visit https://heroeslottery.com/

Tickets for the 50/50, Daily Cash Plus, and grand prize draw will be sold until midnight, July 12.



aaron.hinks@peacearchnews.com

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Diane Gardner inside one of the grand prize homes of the Hometown Heroes Lottery. (Aaron Hinks photo)

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