Burn survivor stressing safety

Pat Stamp’s mission is to tell how life can change in a second

Steve Bartlett sbartlett@thetelegram.com
Published on June 4, 2012

Final in a two-part series

Pat Stamp was exhausted. Nine talks in five days during Occupational Health and Safety Week had taken a toll.

“You relive everything again, and I was reliving it over and over every day,” he says.

He felt privileged to give the talks, but what he was reliving has tormented him since April 8, 2006, the day 40 per cent of his body was burned by heat from a flash fire on board the MV Kometik.

The industrial accident claimed deckhand Wayne Dalton’s life, and changed Pat’s forever.

His battle has included numerous surgeries, post-traumatic stress disorder, self-consciousness as a result of people staring, and new physical limitations.

Fifty per cent of Pat’s lungs are damaged, full mobility in one hand is gone, and an escalating pain lingers.

The good news is he has made a lot of progress, and is in a better, more productive, place.

Pat’s life improved significantly in December, when he was fitted with a prosthetic nose and ears by a former CIA disguise specialist in Virginia.

“It’s given me a different outlook on where I’m to, and how I can help other people,” Pat says.

Prior to the prosthetics, he considered himself a burn victim, but now he feels “more like a burn survivor.”

Now more confident in public places and in front of strangers, Pat agreed to do the May health and safety week speeches.

“I have a job to say no to people,’” he admits. “I took on too many.”

The exhaustion was more emotional than physical from describing his ordeal over and over. It took a couple of weeks to get over it.

Takes only a split second for something to happen, survivor says

Pat wrote a speech and delivered the one to every group.

He says he can speak off the cuff, but he stayed on script because he didn’t want to omit any details.

His main message was safety, and how things can change in a split second.

That’s something he knows all too well.

“When we entered that tank (on the day of our accident) we were talking about taking a trip in the country, Wayne and myself,” he says.

“We had no concerns that anything was going to happen.”

As difficult as it was to continually recall such details, Pat says the talks went well.

“With the feedback we’re getting, we’re after touching a lot of people,” he says, adding that he fed off the audience’s energy.

“When you see the emotions and tears, it fills you up, too.”

The Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission approached Stamp about doing one of the talks.

The organization had worked with him since the accident. It also covered the cost of the prosthetics and the travel involved.

“It’s one of the most satisfying parts of our jobs when we are able to provide the medical services and accommodations that help an injured worker recover and get their lives back,” Tom Mahoney, executive director of worker services, said in an email.

“With many injured workers, like Pat Stamp, it is their perseverance and strength that allows us to be successful in the work we do. And for that we are really thankful.”

‘Pretty proud of the pop’

Besides the safety week talks, Pat recently gave a special address to Grade 4 and 5 students at the school two of his grandkids attend.

He sat on the stage and talked about his prosthetics, flanked by a grandchild on each side.

“They were pretty proud of their pop,” Pat’s wife Madonna says.

Encouraged by the success of the talks, Pat intends to do more as the opportunities arise.

Through the speeches and media interviews, he and Madonna want to tell their tale about the human cost individuals and families pay when there’s a workplace accident.

“Our story is not just about Pat being injured,” Madonna says. “His story, his whole story, is about his family, his survival, and his happiness ... He wasn’t happy for a long while after this happened.”

She also wants people, especially young people, to realize the financial costs.

“The reality hit us ... after losing a good part of our income,” Madonna explains. “The younger people have the big homes, the vehicles, and I would encourage them to be penny wise, pound foolish, because (an accident) could happen to them in a flash and they have nothing prepared. In a split second, they could lose everything they have.”

Pat feels privileged to tell his story, and to encourage others to be aware of safety and the costs of an accident.

He may not be able to work, but he’s doing something extremely valuable.

‘It’s only last week I said to Madonna, it’s like a blessing I was injured,” Pat says.

She counters with, “I said, no, it’s not a blessing that you were injured. It’s a blessing that you survived to tell the story.”

sbartlett@thetelegram.com Twitter: @SteveBartlett_

Pat Stamp says a recent series of talks on safety were well received. — Photo by Steve Bartlett/The Telegram