My name is Raquel Cardenas and I have been a burn survivor for fourteen years. I was introduced to the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation when I was a patient at Shriners Hospital for Children, Los Angeles in 2000, while undergoing reconstructive surgery.
In 2008, I underwent a tissue expander surgery, but I had several complications. Because of the complications, I went through a difficult time with my burns. My surgeon, Dr. Laurant, suggested that I attend the burn survivor support group held at Shriners on Thursdays. At first I actually thought Dr. Laurant was very concerned about my emotional state, so I told him I would go to the support group. When it was time for me to go to support group, I would lie about being tired from therapy and never showed up to the group.
It was the summer of 2008 when I met Margarita Rodriguez, a new staff of the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation. Ms. Margarita from AARBF always managed to see me and invite me to the support group, but I did not want to go. I told Margarita that I was in pain or that it was time for treatment. I actually felt really bad for lying to Margarita afterwards. The truth is I didn’t think that I needed a support group to help me get through my burns. After a year of insistence from Dr. Laurant and Margarita, I finally decided to go to support group. At first I felt out of place but then afterwards my family and I noticed a change in my self esteem and attitude. From that day forward, I anxiously waited for Thursdays so I could attend the support group that I once disliked.
At support group I was re-introduced to the events that are held by the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation like Champ Camp, Young Adult Summit, the Central and Southern CA-Ski Trip and the Holiday party. I had already attended several AARBF events; my first event was Champ Camp in the summer of 2002. Being a part of these events is amazing because I feel like I have grown during every single event. Every time I attend an event I learn something new. For example, at the Young Adult Summit I learned how to change a fuse in my car among many other things. At the Ski Trip, it feels incredible to be able to give back and help others, the way I was helped when I was a young burn survivor. It’s so amazing to see the smiles of the burn survivors, having fun, but most of all I realize that I can accomplish anything and I shouldn’t worry about my burns too much.
The Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation staff and burn survivors are like my second family. AARBF has helped me to become a better person. If AARBF did not exist I would probably still have challenges with my self esteem. I probably would not be accepting of who I am or be proud to be a burn survivor. The staff of the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation always makes you feel like you are family- you can tell they love what they do and make us burn survivors feel special. AARBF has given me so much love and support in my personal life and as a burn survivor.
The most recent event that I participated in was the Lakers home game at the Staples Center on Sunday, March 3rd, 2013. Events like these help me to stay in touch with my AARBF family. That night at the Lakers game I felt connected to the burn survivors of the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation because I got to catch up and I didn’t feel alone or out of place. It feels good to know that you are at this game with family and there is nothing to worry about. You feel confident because everyone makes you feel really good about yourself and they make you feel welcome and appreciated. I truly love the AARBF events and I don’t think that I can say it any other way. I love the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation and everything they do for burn survivors. AARBF is truly my second family!!