My name is Rana Stephan, better known (and better suited) as “Lil Bear.” I began volunteering with the AARBF in April of 2012 and have been hooked since. Throughout my time with the foundation, I have been in constant awe of the many wonderful volunteers that dedicate their time to the AARBF. That’s why I was honored and humbled when my good friend, Evan, asked me to write this blog.
A few years back, my sweet Teta (my grandmother) passed away from complications secondary to a contact burn. She had suffered a stroke and passed out on hot asphalt on a rare, sunny twin peak day. The news came as a shock to me as I rushed from my work to the St. Francis emergency department. I guess this is where my story begins.
For three months, my family was in and out of the burn unit, often taking turns for the evening and night shifts (visiting hours were merely a suggestion to us). We became close friends with other family members whose loved ones were also going through a similar battle. We soon became one big family, often counseling and supporting one another as the rollercoaster of emotions took hold of us. I still think about those families everyday, the impact they made on our life and the part they played in this journey.
Shortly after my grandmother passed away, I was accepted in City College of San Francisco Nursing program. With the free time I did have, I decided to dedicate my time to a foundation that would inspire me. Well, let me tell you this- I found it and more! The AARBF welcomed me with open hearts and I soon began to call the staff members my friends. This past summer, I had the privilege of attending Champ Camp and the Adult Getaway. Meeting the survivors and their families only inspired me more and helped heal the pain I felt with the passing of my Teta.
If that wasn’t enough, the AARBF has changed my life in a profound way! I met a group of wonderful people that I now get to call friends. My professional network has expanded so much that I have recently been offered a position at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Burn Unit. Having attended the holiday party last year, I reached out to the nurse manager who quickly responded, “My door is always open to AARBF volunteers.” As any new graduate nurse knows, interviews with nurse managers are far and rare to come by. I know that this opportunity was made possible by my involvement with AARBF, and for that, I am forever grateful.
Carolyn (Ladybug) quickly came to my rescue, compiling a glowing reference letter within one short business day notice. During the interview, my face lit up as I got to talk about my favorite experiences with the foundation. “Well, you’re definitely energetic and passionate about working on this unit,” the nurse manager’s words still ringing in my ears. As I stepped out of the interview, my fingers fumbled for my phone and I dialed the first two people I could think of- Evan and Carolyn, who were both ecstatic for me.
The foundation has affected me more than I ever could imagine. They took a family tragedy and showed me that with support and a lot of laughter, one can make the best of each life experience. I still think of my Teta at every AARBF event, hoping she would be proud of her Lil Bear.