Written and photographed by Maria Cristina Laureano
Date of burn injury and geographic location: September 30, 2008 – Red Lake, ON
Cause of burn injury: work-related accident
Severity and location of burns: third degree – 70 per cent of his body
Dan Plexman thought it’d be another day at work when his burn injury happened.
Dan, who was an electrical apprentice, was alone on a man lift and was bolting up some steel structures they had put up the previous week. Dan was close to some live overhead power lines when a flash fire caused him to fall 20 feet to the ground after the flames burned through his safety harness.
The other workers said he landed on the ground like a cat on all fours. Even after falling so high, Dan tried to put out the fire that was attacking him. Afterwards, he was sent to the hospital for medical attention.
Dan received third degree burns to 70 per cent of his body and lost all the tips of his fingers to amputation. During his three-month stay in the hospital, Dan also was in an induced coma for 11 days, had hundreds of hours of countless surgeries, and went through a lot of physical and emotional therapy.
Dan’s hands, which he had to have the tips amputated
The recovery process was the hardest part of Dan’s accident, and for a long time he felt angry with what happened.
Even after going to his first burn survivors conference, Dan still felt angry about his accident. Although other burn survivors had mentioned a turning point in their recovery process, Dan never experienced this. Instead, Dan describes his recovery as an emotional roller coaster with hundreds of turning points. However, at the Canadian Burn Survivors 2012 Conference Dan felt more emotionally stable and is helping other recovering burn survivors. In 2012, Dan also entered the TVO’s Doc Studio Contest, a contest to be Ontario’s next big documentary filmmaker. He won a honourable mention for his submission: Hot Under the Collar. In his five-minute video Dan used an iPhone to share his burn story.
Dan’s entry in the TVO’s Doc Studio contest
Dan has been able to address a lot of issues from his burn recovery, including a few personal issues that have plagued him his entire life. This has allowed him to have a positive association with his accident and has made him feel like a better person.
Dan lives in Thunder Bay, ON and travels to the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, MB often for surgeries. Therapy and preparing and recuperating from surgery is a 24/7 full-time job for Dan now.
You are very brave. I wish you continued strength.
Thanks so much, it gets easier everyday.
The strength you show Dan is amazing! You are an inspiration! Thank you for baring your soul, as difficult as that had to be.
I prefer to think of it as just good work ethic rather than strength. From the very beginning I ve tried to be honest and diligent in my recovery. Approach each surgery ( pre and post) with a definate plan.
Dedication to Diet and exercise. All these have been the majority of my focus for the first couple years and basically lied to the psychogists who would give periodic me checkups telling them I was fine but I wasnt. I was still having dark self harming thoughts but i thought i was still fooling everyone, I thought I wAs, but I’m lucky there were a few who put their own feelings aside and help me realize PTSD is a real thing. I’m still amazed how many people get back to me and say how strongly they agree about it being real. ! It so very is and I feel it’s not addressed enough. Many families refuse to help survivors with head injuries or trauma related problems. It’s like there’s a definate line. They will visit and change bandages but will not go to counseling or accept any diagnoses of PTSD. It’s hard to accept. It’s a lot of work and time and learning.
Dan, Thanks for sharing your story. I hope you get to tell the doco version. All the best with the filmmaking. Tim
Thanks for sharing the story Dan. I hope you get to tell it in doco form. I look forward to seeing it. All the best with the filmmaking, Tim
I had the pleasure to see Dan speak today at the ACSA conference. Dan’s emotions ranged from nervous, happy, mad, depressed, enlightened, rejuvenated, hopeful and 100% honest. I was brought to tears in his moving narrative of his journey. If anyone has the opportunity to hear Dan speak – take it!!! I also had the honour to briefly speak with him following his presentation and Dan welcomed the conversations many wanted to had. Dan, you have changed my life for the better. My own battle with depression can only be changed by my outlook and ensuring my loved ones are not the ones abused. You’ve further taught me that and I thank you for your bravery and modesty.
Dan. Was very nice to meet u! Was a great tail gate party in the travel lodge parking lot. Lol have a safe trip. Good luck in adventures.
You look like very healthy today! Both body and spirit. Your smile are nice! I trust you can help lots of people because of your power.
Great to meet you man! You are a real inspiration.
Enjoy your conference in RI.
My best friend and the toughest person I have ever met. As a HSE Professional and working on a major project today is the day the site is truly live. I told Dan’s story this morning to a group of electricians while I trained them in the project LOTO procedure, and I do not believe they will ever look at hazardous energy in the same way. My experience and friendship with Dan over the last 30+ years drives me for 100% flawless execution of our LOTO program everyday.
Love you brother
Met at airport a couple of days ago
Read your stuff on line
I do understand( somewhat)