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The road to recovery: Plano resident documents life after severe burns
Kelsey Kruzich / Staff photo -- Scott Garrett suffered second- and third-degree burns on 41 percent of his face and body in May 1988. His journey is chronicled in his book, "Forever Different: A True Story of a Burn Victim's Survival and Perseverance," published at the end of last year.
On May 11, 1988, Plano resident Scott Garrett's life changed forever.
The then-Allen resident had been working at a Richardson chemical and solder manufacturing plant for five years. He was married and enjoyed a fulfilling second career as a personal trainer at a nearby gym.
After returning from a lunch break, Garrett encountered a large chemical fire. While he was initially able to extinguish the flames, a secondary explosion spilled rapidly-igniting liquid chemicals in his path.
While trying to escape, Garrett bumped into a co-worker, falling to the ground before becoming engulfed in the flames.
Garrett was then transferred to Parkland Hospital, one of the premier burn centers in the United States, where his long road to recovery began. Doctors discovered 41 percent of his face and body, including his face, right ear, neck, arms, torso back and legs, sustained second- and third-degree burns.
Miraculously, Garrett survived, and after multiple skin graft surgeries and an intensive two-year rehabilitation period, he made a brief return to his job and bodybuilding efforts.
"Even after the accident, it was really important to me to prove to myself," he said. "I didn't go back to bodybuilding and doing the job that I was doing before for my appearance. I did it more to prove to myself that I could go back and do the exact same two things I was doing before I got hurt. Once I proved to myself I could do that, it was no longer important."
For a year-and-a-half, Garrett worked on chronicling his journey in the form of a book, "Forever Different," which was released at the end of last year by PublishAmerica.
"Twenty-four years ago, I never heard of anybody being burned," he said. "I never saw anybody, and my parents never mentioned anything about those kind of things. It wasn't really talked about on TV very much, and it isn't publicized as much as it is today ... So that motivated me a little bit more to do this."
In the 54-page account, Garrett explores not only the healing and recovery process but the psychological implications of the injury. Garrett said he became interested in bodybuilding due to low self-esteem as a result of having dyslexia. At the time of his accident, however, he had to come to grips with the fact that his appearance would no longer be a source of confidence.
"I had a lot of love and support from family and friends," he said. "I was young, so I felt like I had my whole life ahead of me, so I wasn't just going to lie down and give up. I felt like I just needed to pull up boot strings and move forward and try to make the best of my life that I could."
Garrett said he hopes the book will not only reach those dealing with severe burns, but low also those suffering from low self-esteem and dyslexia, the latter of which -- combined with the pain of documenting his past difficulties -- Garrett said made the writing of the book somewhat challenging.
"It's not that I don't want to think about it or I can't think about it. I do. It's hard not to when I look at myself every day," he said of his accident. "I'm very fortunate because I could be a lot worse. It was very therapeutic for me [to write the book] and it helped me work through a lot of different things; not just being burned, but dyslexia, too."
Garrett underwent his last surgery in February 1992. His surgeon, Dr. Rod Rohrich, contributed a forward to "Forever Different."
"[The book] tells a great, heartfelt story of how one can survive these life-altering things and yet still be a functioning member of society and ... go and help others," Rohrich said. "There's nothing better than moving forward and giving back."
Today, Garrett is an elevator technician for Texas Instruments in Dallas. He also works for his brother-in-law's elevator company, located in Plano.
Garrett said he hopes to distribute the book to military hospitals and burn units throughout the country to use his life as a model for the hope that exists in horrific accidents such as severe burns.
"If I only reach one person, then it made it all worth it to me," he said.
"Forever Different: A True Story of a Burn Victim's Survival and Perseverance," is available through www.amazon.com.
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