Young Surrey burn victim to be honoured
A little girl who suffered severe burns in a Surrey house fire that took the life of her twin sister two years ago is being celebrated as a Hero of Ability.
Samantha (“Sammy”) was just 20 months old in January 2011 when she and her sister Ava were rushed to hospital after a fire broke out in the bedroom of their apartment.
Ava passed away four days later. Sammy spent the next three months in intensive care, suffering from second-degree burns to 30 per cent of her body and extreme smoke inhalation that’s believed to be at least partly responsible for her acquired brain injury.
But through it all, Sammy, who celebrates her fourth birthday next month, has been a fighter.
“She has a very positive outlook on life and is extremely stubborn and tenacious,” says Samantha’s adoptive mom Aja Irwin, adding whenever she starts to think she’s having a bad day, she just thinks of Sammy. “The thing is, she’s overcome so much. It just puts everything into perspective. I just need to be thankful.”
Aja and Mike Irwin became primary caregivers of Sammy after the fire and formally adopted her last year. Aja is Sammy’s aunt.
A little less than a year after the fire, the Irwins connected with the Community Brain Injury Program for Children and Youth at the B.C. Centre for Ability. Weekly physiotherapy and speech language therapy sessions soon began – something the new mom said was invaluable.
At the time, the couple had no other children so didn’t know exactly what it meant to have a brain injury or what kind of progress Sammy could be expected to make.
“We just chose never to give up on her and do whatever we needed to do to get her to reach her full potential,” says Aja.
The Vancouver-based B.C. Centre for Ability, which serves children, youth and adults with disabilities, has named Samantha one of five Heroes of Ability for 2013.
Sammy is now attending preschool and is using sign language and learning to verbalize words. Tight leg muscles make walking uncomfortable, so she finds other ways to scooch around the floor. And though she uses a gastrointestinal tube to receive liquid, she gets 90 per cent of her daily calories by eating food.
It’s a far cry from the predictions in hospital after the fire that she would live her life in a vegetative state.
“That’s one of the great things about her getting this award is it gives us the opportunity to share her story,” says Aja, holding Sammy’s 10-week-old sister Evelyn. “It’s inspiring for others to see… this is the result of everybody’s efforts. Keep giving to these organizations because they truly, truly make a difference.”
The Irwins will be at the B.C. Centre for Ability’s Dining for Dreams fundraising dinner on May 9.
For more information or to purchase tickets, check www.bc-cfa.org/?page=97.