Julie Burns: Creating a Lasting Legacy

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Julie Burns: Creating a Lasting Legacy

“Be mindful and be mindful of those you care about as well.”

– Julie Burns, Burn Survivor, AARBF Legacy Circle Member

As we celebrated Burn Awareness Week last month (February 6-12, 2022), we reflect on how quickly a simple everyday task can turn into a catastrophic accident resulting in a burn injury that can change a life forever. For Julie Burns, this became a reality on August 24, 2016, when the simple task of making tea turned into years of physical and emotional recovery. Julie is not alone.  Scald burns, burns from hot liquids, account for 35% of all burn injuries. Coffee, tea, soups, and super-heated foods and beverages from the microwave cause the most burns. Together, we can prevent these devastating injuries from happening to our family, friends and community! Will you consider making a gift today to support prevention education and empower survivors like Julie on their journey of recovery?

Julie Burns, Principal, Seal Rock Research

Julie had a busy afternoon at the office ahead of her. Before diving into her tasks, Julie decided to make some tea. Just as she had done a hundred times before, Julie turned on her electric kettle to boil the water. Once ready, Julie poured the hot water into her thermos. However, today she neglected to put the lid back on. As she turned from returning the kettle to its base, she knocked the thermos over, pouring scalding hot water over her entire left leg and a portion of her right leg, suffering severe burns over 15% of her body. 

Instinctively, Julie ripped her leggings off. She was shocked to see her exposed legs instantly white and covered in blisters. For Julie, it seemed like science fiction, as she had never seen a severe burn-injury prior to her own. She covered herself with a nearby scarf and yelled to her husband and business partner for help. Julie and her husband raced off to the nearest emergency room at UC San Francisco. They took one look at Julie and immediately rushed her into a room for treatment. Within an hour, she was transferred by ambulance to St. Francis Bothin Burn Unit. This is where Julie called home for the next three weeks, receiving a multitude of painful surgeries and treatments.

The day Julie learned she was being discharged from the burn unit, instead of celebrating, she cried. Like many burn survivors, the thought of not having the round the clock support of a professional, caring staff and the protection the hospital provides is overwhelming. Julie knew this was just the beginning of her journey to recovery and even with extremely supportive family and friends, she felt alone when leaving the hospital. Your support made it possible for Julie to turn to the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation (AARBF).

“Until I found the Foundation, you know, I really  was on my own in living with my burns.”

AARBF was there the entire time throughout her journey. While hospitalized, AARBF staff came to visit Julie to talk to her about the organization’s supportive programs and services, but Julie was not ready.  “I rejected opportunities the Burn Foundation provided,” recalled Julie. But at one of her outpatient visits, her burn tech – who had made such a difference while she was in the hospital – insisted Julie try the in-hospital AARBF peer support group. Learning from  other burn survivors and their caregivers  helped Julie not only with her physical healing, but with her psychological healing as well. The foundation also helped Julie get one-on-one therapy to help her process the trauma from her accident.

Julie at “The Retreat” for Burn Survivors in Cambria, CA

Six months into her recovery journey, Julie attended The Adult Retreat, a trip that Julie will never forget. AARBF’s Adult Retreat provides adult burn survivors the opportunity for healing, self-discovery and socialization. Surrounded by a community of peers and joining them in exercises and activities, Julie found at The Retreat the opportunity to ask bigger questions, not just about her injury and healing, but her life as a survivor.

“One of the things the foundation does is provide an ohana, a family for burn survivors and their own families.”

Julie’s AARBF family and her work in healing helped her gain the confidence she needed to disclose her scars and start participating again in the physical activities she enjoyed. By her third retreat, Julie hit a tipping point. She was now in a place of her healing where she not only wanted to help other survivors, but to make a gift that would ensure future survivors will benefit from AARBF programs and services – and Retreats.

“I lost both my parents in the last three years. Their generosity to the charities they cared about made me think about the kind of legacy I wanted to leave. The Foundation’s role in my own healing, plus the amazing people I’ve come to know in the burn community — survivors and non-survivors alike – made me determined to guarantee that the Foundation was part of my own planned giving. I want to make a difference, today and tomorrow.”

Julie participating in an AARBF Council of Advisors Zoom meeting

As a member of our Legacy Circle, Julie’s support will ensure that California is free of burn-related injuries. Her gift – and yours — will perpetuate essential programming for others affected by burn injuries in years to come. Will you consider joining Julie in leaving a legacy? Please email Katie Szymczak at kszymczak@aarbf.org to learn more.

Together, we can create a safe California free from burn injuries and a community of empowered burn survivors. 



P.S. Thank you to those who have already joined AARBF’s Legacy Circle! Please contact Katie Szymczak at kszymczak@aarbf.org to confirm your contact information is up to date so you do not miss out on special Legacy Circle communications.