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Burn Survivors Help Each Other Heal

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CHAPEL HILL — Many people who are severely burned learn to live with their disfigurement. Some survivors even help inspire others to do the same. This weekend, a group of those survivors gathered at a reunion hosted by the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals.

A Raleigh firefighter who looks a lot like Elvis sang a similar song -- love me tender -- that put smiles on the faces of burn survivors gathered Saturday in Chapel Hill.

Bobby Lee Sweat says the Burn Center saved more than his physical life. "When they brought me here, I thought my life was over and this burn center put me back together."

Sweat, and nearly 100 others, gathered to share their feelings -- feelings of pain, fear and anxiety they say only a fellow survivor can understand.

"You know, I can go in and I can talk to somebody about the surgery, about the skin-grafting," Center Director Dr. Michael Peck says. "The nurses can go in and give people pain medication. But to really talk about all the psychological things you go through when you recover from a burn, you really need to hear that from somebody who's already been there."

The reunion helps provide that forum.

Saturday's keynote speaker, Charlene Pell, has been through 42 operations.

"Despite our disfigurement," Pell told the group, "we still have our own unique contributions to make to society."

This year's reunion was the seventh sponsored by the Burn Center.

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Laurie Clowers, Reporter
Ron Pittman, Photographer
Julie Moos, Web Editor

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