As a child, Joy Zylstra survived a terrible explosion caused by lighting a candle in a gas-filled cabin. It’s a miracle she survived at all. Overcoming the horrible burns was one thing, but enduring years of bullying because of her scars was another. But when God blessed this brave burn victim with a little girl, she finally found the strength to accept herself as she is and move beyond the pain of the past.
Joy, who is from Canada, was 9 years old when the horrific accident occurred. She and her family went to visit some relatives who lived up in the mountains. Someone accidentally left the gas stove on in the cabin where Joy’s family was staying.
Joy went inside to play with her toys, unaware that the cabin had filled with propane gas. When she decided to light a candle, the spark from the match caused an explosion.
“I went to light a candle and next thing I knew, I opened my eyes and could see a million sparks all over the ground,” Joy recalled. “I was terrified and screamed.”
It must have been a nightmare for Joy’s parents. Yet, Joy says it’s because of her father that she’s still alive.
“While driving to the hospital my dad knew if I went into shock I could die, so kept talking to me and asking me questions to keep me awake. He kept asking how I felt, I was hot and cold and very tired, but he wouldn’t let me sleep,” Joy said. “He literally saved my life, my whole family are my heroes.”
At the hospital, doctors didn’t think Joy would survive. Second and third degree burns covered 45% of her body. Her head swelled to the size of a basketball. Her arms and legs swelled so badly doctors resorted to making slits to reduce their size. The only reason she still had vision is because she was wearing glasses at the time of the explosion.
WATCH: Brave Burn Victim Joy Zylstra’s Journey
(warning: contains graphic images)
Years Spent Hating Her Scars
Joy spent only five weeks in the hospital, which was a miracle. During that time, the brave burn victim underwent multiple skin grafts. And while she was grateful to be alive, it was hard adjusting to her new appearance.
“One night I remember crying, scratching at my face, praying that I would wake up and my scars would be gone,” Joy recalled.
The emotional scars left by the traumatic accident only deepened with the insensitive responses to her physical scars. Strangers stared and whispered. Cruel bullies called her a “freak” and told Joy her skin looked like the scales of a crocodile.
“I used to go swimming to help my skin and had horrid comments from kids at the pool,” Joy said. “One said it looked like I was dirty and another thought I was an alien.”
Joy hated the way she looked for a very long time. Self-pity pushed its way into depression, as she longed to change what had happened to her so long ago. But then God sent a special angel to show Joy her true beauty!
A New Outlook
After giving birth to her first child, Ciara (now 12), everything changed.
“It has taken a long time to accept myself and only happened once I became a mother,” Joy says. “I looked at my daughter and knew I never wanted her to be ashamed of me. I wanted to set an example by not putting such a value on looks and having such a low self-esteem.
Joy’s precious daughter helped her realize she couldn’t change the past. And she wasn’t about to squander her future!
“I knew if I hated how I looked and my scars, how could I expect her to accept me?” Joy explained. “I was determined to teach her that physical appearance isn’t important so I knew I needed to work on myself to be able to teach her that.”
Brave Burn Victim Inspires Others
So, Joy started looking for ways to use her experience to help others. And as she began speaking about what had happened to her, she began to see God was using her for something bigger.
“For years I wondered why I had to go through all of this, but now I believe it was my mission to help others and to empower them by sharing my story.”
WATCH: Brave Burn Victim Shares Message To Encourage Others
Joy now dedicates herself to inspiring others. Through her Facebook page, Scarred, Not Broken, the brave burn victim regularly shares messages of encouragement for other hurting souls. She raises awareness for suicide prevention and pays visits to other burn victims.
But most of all, the mother of three enjoys the life God planned for her. And she accepts that part of that plan includes her years of suffering.
“If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t change any part of my life even getting burned, because it’s made me who I am today and I’m proud of my scars,” Joy says.
“I chose to be okay with who I am and help other people to live a much happier life.”
Joy, you are beautiful inside and out. Thank you for your inspiration!
h/t: Daily Mail
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