( WARNING GRAPHIC PICTURES BELOW)
Updated as of the 21 July 2019.
For those of you who don't know me, I am a 22-year-old international student and freelance model living in Vancouver.
Modeling is my part-time career and is something I am very passionate about and thoroughly enjoy. The last few days have been a living hell. Here is my story:
"OMG, SO WHAT HAPPENED?"
Unfortunately, on the 13th of June 2019 I was involved in a very horrific and traumatizing accident.
I responded to a freelance modeling job, where the photographer wanted to work with fire (behind me from a distance) in order to create some awesome shots.
He had been vouched for by a few other models and had assured me this was safe. He said that he had never had a problem with fire shoots in the past.
The shoot went fine until we got to the fire bit. The photographer seemed rushed and his family had called multiple times as we were running a little late. He proceeded to work with fire behind me, and then yelled, "stand still, this part gets tricky!". Before I could even ask what he wanted to try, or any sort of explanation, he squirted a bottle of liquid paraffin oil while standing closer to me. The next thing I knew, I was up in flames.
It was one of the most traumatic and terrifying moments of my life. I managed to drop duck and roll into a puddle and get the flames out. As a result, I have been left with second degree burns over 25% of my legs and first degree burns on my anterior legs, hip, back, and right arm. To make matters worse, I was in shock and the photographer insisted he would drive me to the ER. In a panic, he made me wait until he was finished packing up all of his camera equipment before he would take me.
This was a horrible and horrific accident that I believe was caused due to negligence and recklessness on the photographer's behalf.
Day 1: All the blisters are still forming and I am in excruciating pain and in shock.
Day 1: Wrapped up.
Day 2: Super loopy from the Percocets I hate taking. Even with them I am in a lot of pain and discomfort, despite my joy of ribs.
Day 3: I need to have my wounds cleaned and wrapped again. They drained the blisters and removed some dead skin. Trying to stay positive but still in tons of pain.
Day 4: They needed to do wound debridement. THIS WAS ONE OF THE MOST PAINFUL THINGS I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED. I was in shock for the rest of the day and have been unable to walk since.
Day 5: I couldn't walk and spent the whole day in and out of sleep while my pupper stayed guard.
Day 6: I was barely able to stand and fainted from pain once while changing my dressing. The doctor says it is healing well, but it will be a long and painful process. Tomorrow I have an appointment with the special burn clinic in Vancouver.
Day 7: This has been one of the hardest days. Even with all the pain meds I am in so much pain. I can't walk on my own, I need crutches or a wheel chair. Every time I try to stand or walk I am in excruciating pain. I went to see the burns specialists and VGH burns clinic. They had to give me hydro-morphone ( multiple times stronger than morphine) on top of Percocet to try and manage the pain while they redress my wounds. It wasn't a pretty site. The specialist came in to see me and said that he will give me 2 more weeks to heal, and if it isn't fully healed I may need to do skin grafts. This would mean surgery, more time off work, having to cancel a trip to see my family I had already paid for. I'm having an absolute low point today, but on the bright side the nurse was awesome and snuck me in cheese and crackers with apple juice.
Day 8: Currently off hydromorphone, and stuck in bed with so much pain. But on the brighter side, being stuck in bed I have had time to check my emails, and messages. I have been overwhelmed by everyone's donations and kind words! I am currently sorting through messages to say thank you personally. But just a big thank you to everyone who has contributed in anyway. From the bottom of my heart I appreciate it. Also thank goodness my boyfriend can cook otherwise I'd starve.
Day 9: Today I got to rest up. I started my day off in frustration. Not being able to something as simple as being able to get up and pee in peace when ever you need is the worst. I wake up and pray I wont have to pee because I am not able to walk properly because I am in such intense pain when I try to walk. After this, I got sick of moping around. Just realizing what an amazing support system I have has made me so grateful! I have had so many people reach out to me from other countries saying how this has helped raise awareness for model safety. More than anything this is what I want and it cheered me up so much to see such good things coming from this bad experience. I had a mother comment that she was showing my story to her 17 year old model daughter so that she can learn to make safer choices as she becomes an adult in this industry. I was so glad to hear it.
In other news, I had an interview with CTV Vancouver today and my story will be live at 5pm and 6pm today. Thank you so much for all the support!
Day 10: Today I've been practicing trying to hobble around on crutches. I'm having a lot of difficulty standing/walking especially on my left ankle, because it was burned a lot more. The doctors say I should try and walk every hour, and its been a frustrating journey because it's something that really hurts and is hard for me, but each day it is getting a little bit better. I could't be more thankful for my boyfriend and his patience. He has had to clear and Robyn proof the house so I can practise trying to stand up with crutches without obstacles.
June 26 : Today was a bitter sweet day.
Over the last few days, I have had a huge struggle walking on my own. The doctors told me I had to push through the pain to ensure the skin doesn't close in places it shouldn't, lessening mobility in the future. Up until last Friday, I was unable to get out of bed on my own. My pain was at an 11/10 whenever I was trying to get up and around, whether on crutches or with my boyfriend helping me up. Percocet took the 11/10 and dumbed it down to a 7. On Saturday, I'd had enough of not being able to get up on my own. So I sat for ages doing small leg stretches to warm my legs up. This helped me get up on crutches, it still hurt but was bearable. Each day got better. Sunday I was up on crutches, but I wasn't able to put any pressure on my left leg without the pain going back up to an 11. Monday I was up on crutches, but my left leg was giving me troubles. Today I got up and did leg stretches, and my left leg actually managed to go straight. I stood up and it didn't buckle. I was able to walk. I was still in pain but now my pain was about a 6. Finally being able to walk again, without crutches or help, made me so happy I almost cried. I was still nervous because today was a big doctors appointment. We would learn if I was healing fast enough that I would be able to take my planned trip to see my family. Or if I would need skin grafts. Unfortunately, I am not healing fast enough and next Thursday I will have to undergo surgery for skin grafts. I walked in all excited and left in tears. I will have to spend a few days in the hospital to make sure the graft takes and that I am able to manage the pain without morphine. The doctors said they will harvest the skin from areas on my legs that weren't burnt. I'd like to point out that the reason I am getting grafts so late, is due to the fact that if the wound doesn't heal well enough after 3 weeks, the chances of scarring increases by 80%. Doctors said after 10 days, the bandages should be able to come off, and both the harvesting site and graft site should be closed. However, it will take me a year to get rid of other scars and discolouration. I was told I would need to wear pressure stockings for half a year to keep the scars flat. On the bright side, they will be custom made and I can choose my favorite color. I would of loved to have shared a picture where I am smiling but today was a hard one.
On another bright note, I have been able to cover my plaster/bandages with tights and compression socks, so now if I wear dresses or skirts, you would't tell. A little piece of normalcy back before the skin grafts.
5 July 2019
yesterday I went in for my skin graft procedure. It was one of the most traumatic things I’ve ever experienced. Anyone who knows me knows I faint for needles let a lone go for a full blown surgery. The worst part is I’ve spent my whole life being safe to avoid things like this. And now because of one persons calressness I have had a mountain of suffering. The surgery went well, but I am in a lot of pain, and will have to be admitted until Tuesday/Wednesday to make sure the grafts take. I’m so blessed and grateful to have all my loved ones by my side to ease this stressful process. Thank you again for all the prayers, love and support you have no idea how appreciated it is.
7 July 2019
Today was a hard day. I’m in a lot of pain when I try and walk, and still trying to manage some of the bleeding from my staples. Tomorrow the staples come out and I’m hoping for the best! Wish me luck. And thank you for all the love and support!
My boyfriend and sister have been helping me get around on my wheel chair.
last night my dad stayed with me while I fell asleep because I wasn’t feeling too great from all the meds I’ve had to take. Having my loved ones around me has meant the world to me and has truly helped keep my spirits up.
17 July 2019
It has been 2 weeks since my skin graft surgery. The doctors said they took 100% but the skin is having trouble healing at the edges which is really painful and uncomfortable. Today was my follow up appointment, all the dead skin was cut off and a few forgotten staples extracted. It’s been such a long and painful journey. I can’t wait to have my life back and do the things I love again. It’s been hard having to put everything on hold. My healing has also taken much longer than I expected, but it’s slowly getting better.
21 July 2019
My skin grafts are healing very well! I am finally able to shower again! My next appointment is next Wednesday and they will be fitting me for compression socks/tights which I’ll have to wear for permanently for the next 6-18 months.
"GIVE US HIS NAME!"
So many people have asked me to come forward to name this photographer for the safety sake of other models. While I fully understand this and respect it. I unfortunately will not be giving out names, as I am still trying to take legal action. Our lawyer has advised not to mention anything yet. However I have written a message to all models on here, on the Daily Hive, and CTV. That if models take to heart I can ensure you will not encounter this photographer, or other photographers who do not put model safety first. Other than that if a photographer asks to shoot anything with fire, ask if he is qualified if he isn't JUST NO.
"SUE, SUE, SUE!"
We are currently exploring legal avenues with our lawyer. Due to this we will not be releasing the name of the photographer until advised by our lawyer.
"WHAT ABOUT WORK?"
At the moment I am unfortunately unable to walk, let alone go about my job as a model with all my wounds and extreme pain. I have had to cancel all my paid jobs for the next 2-3 months. There is still the issue of severe scarring. All of these things which will hinder my ability to model. It will be a long road to recovery and I am hoping long term I won't be left with too much scarring.
26 June 2019 : Today we found out that I will be booked in next week Thursday for skin grafts. I will spend a few days in the hospital. It should take 10 days for the wounds to close. After this it will take up to a year for scarring and pigmentation to develop and subside. It will be a long road to recovery and I am hoping long term I won't be left with too much scarring
"FOR PEOPLE ASKING HOW THEY CAN HELP"
I don't usually like to ask for help, but any and all financial assistance or even just sharing this would be so much appreciated during this very distressing time. I am away from all my friends and family, and my boyfriend has taken off work to take care of me. I won't be able to work for the next few months, and have a lot to deal with at the moment. Trying to get legal help, pay for my bills, lost wages, and any extra medical expenses not covered is going to be tough especially as an international student. This would really help go a long way for the next few months of care and recovery. Other than this even just sharing my story, so other models are aware of the dangers that come with this job, and if they can read this and become extra cautious , specially when asked to work in very risky situations.
"POINTS TO CLARIFY"
I've decided that I want to make this section, because quite a few news outlets had taken my story and gotten it very wrong/people making assumptions. This has caused a lot of negativity and victim shaming. I am really glad that some news outlets had since reached out to me and made amendments to their stories.
1. Why do I need skin grafts? Why didn't I get them straight away?
I have mostly second degree burns on my legs. The doctors want to minimize the scarring as much as possible. According to them I have a 3 week period in which they allow me to heal on my own. If my body can heal on its own, then I wont need skin grafts. If my body doesn't heal in this time frame, the chances of scarring goes up by 80%. Unfortunately I haven't been able to heal quick enough and will be going for skin grafts next Thursday.
2. Why did you agree to meet a stranger in an abandoned building?
Although I can understand this perspective. Within the modeling industry this is common. Models rely on photographers being vetted by other models and checking the photographer's portfolios, and pages out. So on paper this photographer checked out. His model mayhem page had been active since 2012, he was a VIP member, he had been vetted by 18 other models as great to work with, he was listed as very experienced, he had been doing fire shoots since 2016. In the casting it stated I would be given a liability form. So in my head this was the usual as is for many other models, he checked out on paper. So I agreed to take a job with a vetted photographer in a shoot location. Abandoned places are actually super common too. So for people who said I didn't use my common sense, don't understand the industry I and many others are in whether it be agency or freelance. Which is why I wanted to share my story to let others know that just because a job checks out on paper, doesn't mean it is safe.
3. Why did you agree to be positioned in front of open flames? Surely you could of said no , you are part to part to blame.
This part is false. At no point were there any open naked flames. What he used to create this fire art was a metal whisk which contained a small flame inside. He then swung this behind me to create fire art at a distance I felt was safe. We also had about 10 minutes or less left of the shoot, and at this point he did not communicate that he wanted to add extra steps or do anything else. So I honestly thought he would continue to do that and the shoot would be done. I also thought at that point the biggest danger would be if he dropped the whisk on himself and burned himself because the whisk was hot.
4. Why didn't you say no?
At this point the photographer did not communicate to me that he wanted to squirt liquid paraffin anywhere. So when he yelled " Stand still this part gets tricky", I had no idea of what his intentions where because they weren't communicated to me. Before I could even ask, or be given the time to say no, he had squirted the bottle and I was already up in flames. It is not clear if the liquid caught on light due to him holding the whisk device too close, or because he left it on the floor.
5. The titles say I have first degree burns, and don't show pictures.
I have 1st degree burns on bum, and back. I have second degree burns on the majority of my back legs with some being deeper and worse than others. I think because of this some people don't realize the severity of my injury and presume I am looking for attention for small first degree burns.
6. The photographer told you that this particular stunt was safe and vetted by 18 other models.
This is so wrong. I don't even know how this came to be written. The photographer had been vetted by 18 other models, and in general told me the fire shoot was safe as he had done it for years and never had an issue. I was never aware of the " stunt " that set me on fire.
7. The photographer proceeded to make a wall of fire behind you.
This never happened there was no fire wall behind me.
8. Why didn't you ask what the shoot entailed?
I did, and at no point was it said liquid paraffin would be squirted anywhere.
9. Why are you smiling and posing for photos?
Percocet is a hell of a pain killer, and that is what I was given. Also this is a horrible situation, but feeling sorry for myself and getting depressed won't help my mental health or healing. So I try to stay as positive as I can. Smiles and all. There are days many days I do get down and cry, but I get back up again and go. I have been documenting my journey and I have chosen to share smiles to hopefully encourage anyone else going through something similar, that being positive can help.
10. You are posting for attention.
No. I have always been very open with my life on social media, with both the ups and downs. I shared my story as a cautionary tale, I never thought it would go this far, but I am so glad it has and hope with all my heart that this will continue to spread awareness.
“MESSAGE TO MODELS”
Please more than anything take my story and let it raise awareness of the dangers of accepting risky shoots. I honestly thought this would be an awesome concept. The photographer assured me it was safe, and had been vetted by other models. Don’t trust other people’s words when going into a risky shoot. Demand that there be safety procedures in place. And if the photographer can’t guarantee or provide them. Then just don’t do it. It’s not worth your time and safety. Ask for their qualifications too!
Thank you so much
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