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Posted March 17, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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New program is available for burn victims

Raquel Torres, a massage therapist works on Renny Light, 17, a burn victim. Photos by Dennis Grundman/Daily

The Kindle Program will officially kick off Saturday at Lykens Chiropractic Inc.

Frederick County Fire and Rescue Chief Tim Welsh observes as Torres teaches Christine Langley, also with the Frederick County Fire and Rescue Department, how to massage a burn.

The program aims to improve self-esteem and social skills in burn survivors. Light was burned while sledding when her sled slid into a bonfire.

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By Natalie Austin -- naustin@nvdaily.com


WINCHESTER -- Massage therapist Raquel Torres gently rubbed the angry, red scar that perfectly looped the teenager's left cheek, relaxing the skin, increasing blood flow and breaking down the damaged tissue.

Every now and then Renny Light, 17, of Winchester, says she can hear a pop as waste caught in the scar tissue is broken down and carried away by the increased blood flow. It's not painful, says the teen, smiling. She points to an area inside the snaking burn, a recent skin graft taken from her chest.

Two years ago, the real pain began when on a snowy night in February, Light's sled went head on into a bonfire.

She suffered third-degree burns below her eyes, on her fingers, and elbow. She passed out and woke up in the burn center of the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, where she remained for a week.

Two reconstructive surgeries later, and the recent skin graft, and the teen has an attitude that puts to shame the image-conscious period most young adults go through at her age.

"I don't really care if it [the scar] is gone or not," she says, lying on the massage table. "It doesn't bother me at all."

Torres says her goal is to see how much change can be achieved without surgery.

Light is the perfect ambassador for the launch of the Frederick County Fire and Rescue Department's Kindle Program aimed at encouraging and inspiring resiliency among burn survivors.

The first of its kind in the area, Kindle officially begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at Lykens Chiropractic Inc. at 2433 Valley Ave., Suite 105. Depending on response, the program may eventually be moved to the Frederick County Public Safety Building.

"There is no other program like this in the area other than traveling to Charlottesville or Fairfax. There's no other resource for burn survivors," says Frederick County Fire and Rescue Chief Tim Welsh.

The biweekly program is aimed at educating family members in the area of massage and support for the burn victims. Over the course of the Kindle Program, families and victims will also learn how range of motion is measured and monitored of tightly healing skin. Nutritional needs will be discussed to aid the healing process and healthy skin products introduced, says Torres, a graduate of the Florida Massage School. She also was a member of a pilot study on the effect of massage therapy on scar tissue and studied Active Isolated Stretching at Wharton Performance in New York City.

While in Florida, Torres worked with children, including a 12-year-old who had burns over between 86 percent and 96 percent of his body. The child couldn't extend his joints due to the scarring after being dumped in hot water.

The scarring inside of these victims also is immense.

Perhaps most important is the network of burn survivors that will form from the Kindle Program. It will provide an opportunity for discussion in a safe and comfortable environment, says a brochure for the program, allowing for increased self-esteem and improved social skills.

"Anything that can improve the mental and physical health for this population, we are excited about it," says Christine M. Langley, volunteer coordinator and certified mediator for the Frederick County Fire and Rescue Department.

The classes, which cost $15 each, will be open to all ages. The fire and rescue agency is applying for a grant to extend the program throughout the East Coast.

There is a lot to learn in order to help survivors, all agree.

The burn victims' scars must be closed, says Torres, and families will be taught to work within the burn survivors' pain tolerance to make sure the tissue is not ripping when it is touched. When range of motion is worked with, the tissue becomes more pliable, she says.

Burn injuries are a major cause of hospitalization in the U.S.

Most all of the 1.25 million burn injuries suffered by Americans each year are accidental, caused by incidents ranging from being exposed to boiling water to chemicals. Each year 51,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized for burns they sustain.

The same holds true for the county, says Welsh, with most being accidental and occurring at home.

Welsh says the department wants to reach out to the community in a way that provides support long after the red trucks and lights are gone.

"We want to have a different perspective and provide a network of support," he says.

"We are a family and we are going to take care of you after," adds Langley.

Light's father is assistant chief of the Gainesboro Volunteer Fire and Rescue Co. in Winchester. It was through her father's contacts in fire and rescue that she learned about Kindle. And, through Kindle, Light has learned a lot about herself, including wanting to pursue a career in medicine.

Light started massage therapy two weeks ago, and says she has already learned more about how to better care for her injuries.

"It provides me a different way to heal," she says.

Whether there will be a sled in her future has also been decided.

"Heck no," says the teen, smiling.

For more information or to sign up for the Kindle Program, call Lykens Chiropractic at 667-7388 or send an e-mail to Torres at back2neutral@gmail.com. More information also can be obtained by calling Langley at the fire and rescue department at 722-8358.

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