Embracing the Scars
With braids and rollers in her hair, Jurnee Nicholas sat patiently with a towel wrapped around her as her mother worked carefully to style her hair. As her mother began to curl the ends of Jurnee’s hair by using water that had been heated in the microwave, Jurnee felt the steam from the water, got scared, and jumped. The towel fell from around her, and the hot water landed on her back.
“It immediately blistered. I called my mom to have her come and look at the burns, and we thought we would be able to treat her while she was at home. We used ice and Neosporin to try and soothe the burns, but it just made things worse,” Leashal Cotton explains the traumatic experience ingrained in her memory.
Nervous and worried for her daughter, Leashal brought Jurnee to the hospital where she was admitted and stayed for two days. Working with Baton Rouge General’s Regional Burn Center, the doctors diagnosed her burns as second-degree burns.
Leashal recalls, “I remember them having to scrub the burns to remove the dead skin, and I just couldn’t take it. I had to wait in the waiting room because it was too much. After, they lanced her burns and thankfully, they are barely even noticeable now.”
When people ask Jurnee about her experience, she shares that although it was scary, she feels good now. “I tell them it doesn’t hurt, but it did, and that I am not ashamed of them. I’m very grateful.”
Jurnee’s road to recovery had full support from her school. While she healed away from class, her classmates got together and each made her a get-well-soon card. Jurnee was eventually able to return to school, and over the summer, experienced her first trip to Camp I’m Still Me where she was able to meet other children who also suffered from burns.
“The camp is so motivating for these kids. I was nervous about letting her go for the first time because it was the first time she was ever away from me, but it was also the first time she was able to be around other burn victims. When we arrived, I had to take Jurnee aside. I told her to not judge the other children because some of the kids’ burns may be more visible than hers. I also told her to not ask too many questions because I didn’t want her to make them uncomfortable,” Leashal explains.
Jurnee had a wonderful experience while at camp, and has truly embraced her burns, something her mother credits to her attending the camp. “Jurnee will tell you what happened to her. She doesn’t let it affect her in any way. Jurnee will say, ‘This is a part of me,’ and she really accepts it. It’s an amazing thing,” she shares.
Jurnee’s experience at camp was memorable, and one she wants others to be able to experience as well. Leashal recalls a new classmate Jurnee met this year who also has a burn. “Jurnee told him her story and all about how great Camp I’m Still Me is. She wants to get the information about the camp to him so he can attend as well.”
While Jurnee still gets nervous when she has to get her hair done, she has remained the happy, friendly, and helpful girl she has always been. As her mother says, “To know Jurnee is to love Jurnee.” And, Leashal encourages families who are going through similar situations to teach their children to embrace their scars and see them as new beauty marks. Jurnee adds, “I like my burns. You should be yourself, and don’t be ashamed.” ■