Can You See My Scars? How To Heal From Trauma With Burn Survivor, Samuel Moore-Sobel

Healing from physical scars is one thing but dealing with the emotional scars is another. Today’s guest, Samuel Moore-Sobel, is a writer, speaker, community activist, and burn survivor. He joins Dr. Dianne Hamilton and opens up about his debut memoir, Can You See My Scars?, and the traumatic and life-changing moment that happened the summer before his sophomore year of high school. What started out as a simple job to earn some money culminated into a tragic chemical explosion that would transform him forever. Samuel talks about how he deals with his physical and emotional scars and explains why sharing our stories is important. Listen to his story and be inspired to share yours in this episode of Take The Lead Radio.

TTL 875 | Burn Survivor

 

We have Samuel Moore-Sobel. He has a book, Can You See My Scars? which is a harrowing encounter he had with sulfuric acid that he discusses and his story. You don’t want to miss this one.

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Can You See My Scars? How To Heal From Trauma With Burn Survivor, Samuel Moore-Sobel

I am here with Samuel Moore-Sobel who is an author, speaker and columnist. His debut memoir, Can You See My Scars? is a story of a harrowing encounter with sulfuric acid, trauma and severe burns. It’s an amazing story. He writes about his trauma experience as a burn survivor. It’s so nice to have you here, Samuel.

Thank you so much for having me on, Diane. It’s an honor to be on your show.

I’m interested in hearing your story. I’m in Arizona and we have a very famous police officer who had a terrible burn situation. I have been around him a little bit because my husband is a plastic surgeon. Even though my husband was not his doctor, I have had to be in situations where I have been around this thing. I know you went through a lot and, amazingly, you are sharing your story. I want to get a backstory. If you want to tell a little bit that led up to your incident, go ahead and tell us what happened to you.

Thank you so much, Diane. I will get going here. Feel free to jump in with any questions. It’s a little bit of a long story but I will try to condense it.

I want to hear it.

I’m speaking to you here more than eleven years after my accident. My story, we go back more than eleven years. I was fifteen years old and I was hired for a day to move boxes and furniture for a man who lived in my community. I was about a week away from starting my sophomore year of high school and I was eager to get one last odd job in before the summer ended. I was hired to move boxes and furniture. From the moment I’ve got there to this man’s home who lived just a few blocks from my parents’ house, the details started to change.

At the time, I chalked it up to maybe I had misunderstood but it was a common theme throughout the day that the details kept changing as we went along. Instead of moving boxes in the furniture from the man’s home to a nearby storage facility, which is what I understood the job to be. In fact, we would be going to a storage facility that was nearby emptying the contents of that storage facility and then bringing the remaining items to the man’s home, which is what we did. Once we did that, then he informed us that I would be moving the items to a friend’s shed who he said lived 5 or 10 minutes down the road.

First of all, I wanted to know, is it more than you helping him or just you?

TTL 875 | Burn Survivor
Can You See My Scars?

It was me and a friend. I had asked a friend to come and help me. We are both there, he says, “It’s 5 or 10 minutes down the road.” We get going and we are in this big U-haul truck. Five minutes becomes 10 and 10 becomes 20 and suddenly, we are more than 45 minutes out and we have passed county lines. I don’t know where we are. I don’t recognize the surroundings. That’s when the panic starts to set in. I was wondering, “What have I gotten myself into here?” We eventually make our way up to this house. The house was at a top of the hill, there was a gravel road and we made it to the house. From there, the shed was at the bottom of this hill.

He had to back the truck down to the bottom of the hill where the shed was and that’s where we met the homeowner. She went to open the shed, opened it and it was filled to the brim with boxes, furniture and everything you have ever imagined in a shed. We were told we had to empty the shed first before we could get the things off the U-Haul into the shed. A box made its way into my hands and I will never forget I looked down and it looked like it was books and hay, and when I say hay, literally straw protruding from this box, which I thought was an odd assortment of items if I had to judge what people have in their sheds.

She says, “Toss it.” I do. There’s a nearby cement slab that’s just a few feet away and I tossed the boxes as instructed. The second it hits that slab, an explosion rings out. I see this liquid substance, I don’t know what it is but I see it come flying towards me and instinctively, I close my eyes miraculously. I then feel this substance hit my face and that’s when the pain began.

Was it sulfuric acid?

Yes. They call 911 and they lead me up to the hill. The 911 operators asking the man what the substance is, he says he doesn’t know. He hands me the phone and he goes back down the hill to try to investigate what the substance was. I’m at the top of this hill, I’m fifteen years old and I’m in this extraordinary amount of pain. I’m wondering if this is going to be the end if I’m going to die on the top of this hill. Eventually, the paramedics do arrive.

They placed me on a stretcher, they put me in the ambulance and these authorities ask some questions of the homeowner and she says that it’s a glass jar of sulfuric acid that’s at the bottom of this box that was apparently used by her ex-husband for metal etching. At least that’s what she told the authority. That was the substance, which you knew sulfuric acid is a very dangerous substance and left me with 2nd and 3rd-degree burns to my face and arms.

It’s the worst nightmare. Your mom and dad must have freaked out. I can’t even imagine. I’m envisioning the psycho house on the hill for some reason as you are telling me this. I love that you have a sense of humor about this. Many years later, it helps you a little bit. At the time, it had to be horribly traumatic. You are fortunate to have closed your eyes. I have so many people on my show who have lost their eyesight for different reasons. One had a branch go through his car while he was driving and went to his face. Terrible things can happen. Do you go into shock? Do you feel the pain there? What happens next?

It was miraculous in the outcome because the doctors, once I’m at the hospital and they are checking my organs and doing scans, one of the things that they were worried about is one drop of sulfuric acid in your eye can make you go blind and swallowing one drop of sulfuric acid, which some did burn my upper lip. If I had swallowed it, it could burn through your esophagus. It can ruin your organs and then you are looking at an organ transplant. This was very much a near-death experience or my life was in danger.

When you are in those moments, I felt the pain, I did go in a bit of shock. I was having trouble standing and seeing out of my eyes as well because my eyelids had been burned. I was trying to keep my eyes open but at some point, I couldn’t anymore. I was worried that I might have swallowed this substance so I was spitting it out over again.

It was at that moment, things slow down. I felt alone at that moment. I did feel like that was going to be the end. It felt like my life was going to end. The property was surrounded by trees and I remember looking around after they put me on the stretcher and lifted me up. If that was the last time I was going to see trees, which was a frightening thought, I had so much more life I wanted to live. I wasn’t ready to go yet.

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Who’s responsible for all this? The guy, the woman, did this become a legal battle? I want to get into that but let’s get into that a little bit before we go to your recovery. Was there anything that became of that or it was just like, “We had no idea,” thing?

That’s one of the hard things about this story. Justice wasn’t done in this situation. No criminal charges were brought against the people who allowed this to happen. They claimed that they didn’t know it belonged to the ex-husband who used it for metal etching. Some doctors have disputed that in the years since saying that the concentration was too high, that it would burn through metal but she didn’t hand over the substance for testing. There are a lot of unknowns and question marks because there was a technicality based on.

I write about it a little bit in my book because of where it happened, this specific County, there was no fire marshal. Even though it was stored negligently, which would have been a crime in a county 1 or 2 over because there wasn’t a fire marshal, it wasn’t enforceable. We went through, OSHA and we called the local sheriff’s office. Nothing could be done. It was frustrating at the time because it felt like justice wasn’t done and I was paying the consequences for something that entirely was not my fault.

It was in this box, you didn’t realize, you shoved it into the air and it landed the glass. Is that what happened? The glass broke because you didn’t realize that there was something horribly fragile and terrible in it?

It looked like it was books and hay. I tossed it and then it apparently was nestled underneath all of these other items. It was in a glass jar that I guess the glass exploded and broke. It’s because it was exposed to the elements, normally, it would have come and hit my legs. I’m over 6 feet tall and I was several feet away from this but because it was highly charged, it came and burned my face, unfortunately, because of that.

You say it was highly charged because it was under pressure or because of the temperature?

That’s what the doctors had said afterward. That is because it was exposed to the elements for I don’t know how long but to the weather changes and the heat. It’s how it was stored, that ensured that it was highly charged so it came and hit me in the face versus it should have hit my legs but because of how it was stored, it was negligence on negligence that ended up affecting me.

What is the reason for somebody to keep sulfuric acid? That’s a weird thing to have. Isn’t it?

Agreed. I don’t know why it was there. It’s one of the great questions of this experience even years later, not knowing why it was there. It’s bizarre.

TTL 875 | Burn Survivor
Burn Survivor: I am proud of my scars. I’ve been able to transform my view from seeing these as an objective of shame to objects of triumph and survival.

 

I’m sure that everybody felt horrible about what you went through especially your parents and everybody. What was it like to go through the recovery? From the people I have seen, my husband’s worked on or people who worked on that police officer that I mentioned, his car was rear-ended or something and it exploded. There are so many things to go through in recovery. What was yours like in the physical recovery?

It was a long road. I endured more than a dozen surgeries over many years.

Do they have to do free flaps like muscle flaps or I can try to think of what you would have done?

They did some skin grafting. They took some skin behind my ear and then put it under my nose because one of the things I was facing was my right nostril was getting pulled in by the scar on the right side of my face. They were concern about airflow. They put a skin graft on that scar. The skin graft didn’t take very well and then they ended up having to redo it a year or two later.

I have done laser operations and steroid injections to try to reduce the density of the scars. Anything that the doctors thought could try to alleviate the redness and the density. I look pretty good now compared to what I was then. I remember looking at my face for the first time after the accident and being in a hospital bed and not recognizing myself at all.

My face had these black, brown and green stains all across my face. I was concerned about what the future would hold. I remember even thinking that night of being in the hospital bed and thinking no one has ever going to fall in love with me because of how I look and I’m not going to be able to go to high school and college. All these kinds of normal milestones. Thankfully, I turned out to be wrong. It was a challenge and it was something not only the physical recovery but the emotional recovery. That’s something I learned along this journey that in some ways, the emotional scars were even more impactful to my daily life than the physical scars.

Once you initially do the addressing of the physical scars, then you move towards that emotional realizing that the symptoms I was experiencing, the irritability, the flashbacks and even some suicidal thoughts. I eventually did go to counseling to work through those symptoms of what I was later diagnosed with symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Those two pieces of recovery took a long time to come to a place of acceptance of what had happened, to see the lessons I had learned through this experience and be able to employ those in my life. That was a good decade-long experience.

It’s so much to go through. My cousin was Dr. D Ralph Millard, who was one of the most famous plastic surgeons. He created the procedures for how to do cleft palate repair. He would go to these different countries. He used to send us pictures of all the people that maybe had syphilis and different things and rebuild their faces basically. He even has a book, Saving Faces, that he wrote about his life. It was very interesting to see all the things that he had worked with. I’m watching these things as a kid. I’m looking at this going, “How do you, as a doctor not just break down seeing the suffering that people go through?”

There’s a pain in the emotional part. I have never understood how they were able to separate and not have that impact on them. I have asked my husband this and he sees it as he’s more empathetic because he sees it so much. I have a very hard time even when I read your bio when it came through as a potential for this show, my initial instinct is, “Do I want to look.” It’s going to break my heart. I remember looking at your picture and thinking, “He looks great. They did a good job.” I was very impressed with the work that you have had done but if I look close, I can tell. The police officer here still has no ears and a lot of his face is missing. Do you feel like it could have been worse? Do you feel that you don’t have to worry about how you look as much now? Has it changed your perspective of how you feel your confidence throughout these years?

The emotional scars are even more impactful to our daily lives than the physical scars. Click To Tweet

As you said, I look very different now. I’m very pleased with the work that the plastic surgeons were able to do. It’s still there and it’s interesting. I feel like now, it’s about half and a half where half the people I meet notice it and then half don’t. It just depends on the person. It was something I did carry for a long time, especially when I was starting out my career.

I talk about this with audiences. If we bring our scars with us into the workplace, whether we acknowledge it or not, when I was first starting out, it was something that more people did notice, especially they were more noticeable back then. It was something that I had to watch for because I remember I would be in meetings or leading presentations and I would wait for that moment where there would be that look of recognition that would come across someone’s face.

I would know if they noticed because it happened hundreds of times over my experience. At that moment, I would feel insecure and it holds me back from performing my best at work or in other areas of my life. It was something I carried in into dating relationships as well. I would use different defense mechanisms. I would put my hand over my face to cover the most obvious scars, which are on my chin and underneath my nose on my upper lip to try to make sure people didn’t see those. I wanted people to know me first before this experience because I didn’t want to be known as the boy who was burned. I felt like that was what people knew and remembered me as. I wanted to be more than that.

Now, in the present day, I am proud of my scars. I have been able to transform my view from seeing these as an objective of shame but rather objects of triumph and survival. I wear my scars proudly. When I get questions about my scars, I’m able to say, “You can read more about it in my book, Can You See My Scars?” I’m more able to engage with those and I see it as a way to empathize to connect with others. It makes me a more empathetic and emotionally intelligent leader.

I love that since I write about emotional intelligence and that’s some of that stuff. When did the book become available?

It was published on September 1st, 2020. It was on the eleventh-year anniversary of the accident.

What made you wait eleven years to write the book?

It grew out of my journal. When I was in therapy, my psychiatrist gave me this idea that I have taken with me ever since. It was an idea that I could develop the necessary tools and put them into my toolbox to combat whatever symptoms I was experiencing. One of the tools in my toolbox was writing. I wrote over a long time and it felt like the story was never quite finished. Something else would happen. I would have another surgery or I would have another insight. I felt like to be authentic and to be ready to share this with the world, I had to have reached that place of acceptance and healing, and that took a long time.

Finally, when I felt I had done that, writing this book was a part of that. It was the capstone of my healing process but being able to transform this experience from something that never should have happened into a redemptive one of helping other people was powerful. That was something that I was able to do through this book. It took a long time to get to that place of healing and get to a place where I felt I could authentically share this story without anger, bitterness or holding onto the past.

TTL 875 | Burn Survivor
Burn Survivor: Our scars are oftentimes what drives and influence how we act both in the workplace and in our personal lives and how we respond to others.

 

I could see what you are saying. Sometimes it takes a little perspective to look back. A lot of people don’t recognize how much it is to go through. We get a lot of skin cancer patients here in Arizona and my husband will tell me these stories where he has to cut three sides of a square to make a skin flap that he flips over onto people’s noses. They have to leave their skin attached from their forehead to their nose for 6 or 8 weeks. The trauma of going through that alone sounded so awful to me.

As you are talking about most of your face or whatever you went through, just the pain of going through surgeries and the physical, as you mentioned, the emotional, there’s so much to what you went through. I know I have touched on your family. Tell me a little bit about how that impacted your family.

It’s such an all-encompassing injury because each time you have surgery, at least that I have found in my experience that it reopens those old wounds, some of those emotional symptoms are you relive that experience. It’s affecting you in the same places that the accident happened. It was like taking a scab off a wound every time. I was lucky that I had parents, a brother and a sister who were supportive. It wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination but they were there for me.

My mom was at all the doctor’s appointments, all the surgeries, it was hard on them and something that they struggled with as well. It was something that impacted, especially my siblings as well. My sister was much younger at the time and it affected her view of me. She had a lot of fear and anxiety as a result of what happened. It had a big effect but I’m grateful for what they did do to try to make sure that I made it through this experience in one piece as it were and grateful for the sacrifices they made to ensure that happened.

I’m curious about the doctors as well. My husband is Robert Spies and I have had him on the show talking about different aspects of plastic surgery in the past. I find it very fascinating. His perspective of the things you go through in these procedures, there are still a lot. I have gone through my own sense of surgeries from other things I have had to go through. Almost when you watch TV and you see them rolling people into different ORs, you can smell it and things, and it brings you back to that feeling.

Mine is hard to compare to what you went through but I have been through enough that I get that sense, whether I had meningitis and different things where I was in the hospital. When I see that, it brings it back to me. Do you get that when you are watching television? I watched Dr. Death and it wasn’t a good idea to watch but it was very good. How were your doctors with you? Do you still relive it sometimes when you see things?

It could be the weirdest thing that can trigger that thought pattern. One of the early things that I felt was getting into a shower. If the water was too warm, it brought back that feeling of reliving the accident. It’s the weirdest thing that can happen where if you are watching a show, seeing or hearing the stories of others, it could bring you back to it.

One of the things I had to learn in therapy was being able to distance myself from those feelings so that you can watch it from a television screen versus reliving it and it causing symptoms for you. It was something that I had to work through. My doctors were very good with me. They were very empathetic especially the last doctor I had who works frequently with burn survivors.

He was a very caring man. I talk about that in the book, a lot of the conversations with the doctors and people seem to find those fascinating but going back and forth, and how they were with me some were very empathetic. Some other experiences weren’t so great but I was grateful for the last two surgeons I had that were very empathetic and did the best they could to treat and handle me with care.

We have to know how to talk about our scars to know how they affect us because they can keep us from performing at our best. Click To Tweet

I was a pharmaceutical rep, I have seen every doctor in many years of doing that. I remember the movie The Doctor. William Hurt was great in that because he was the epitome of the awful doctor. His patients came in, complaining about their scars and he would say, “Tell your husband your life was centerfold and you have the staple marks to prove it.” It was horrible things he would say. He gets sick and then he has to deal with people treating him that.

I remember being at the gym one time and there were a couple of women on the air talking about plastic surgeons and they happen to be my husband’s patients. They were talking about how he had used to be the only guy who did the facial reconstruction where they would rebuild their mouth after they had cancer and he did all the microsurgery, which is apparently a very hard thing to do.

They would have to have the whole inside of their mouth rebuilt, jaw and everything. I remember them talking about how you think of plastic surgeons as Barbie doll makers but they have a whole other side to them. Thank God, somebody can do with what they do because I know I could never do that. I’m sure you can get the ones that are more like William Hurt and you can get the ones who have the compassion for what you are going through. What did you learn from all this that you think help leaders? You say you speak to groups and share your story. What would leaders or companies get from your experience? What do you want to tell them?

There are so many different lessons I learned throughout this experience but the main one I learned is that, I was able to get out more of my own head, own experience and talk to others that we all have scars. They may not be as visible as my own but they are there. We all carry those scars with us wherever we go. My story has allowed me to see that we don’t talk about our scars. There’s this cultural acceptance that we are not supposed to talk about those things. We are encouraged to post the best things and the best pictures on social media.

We are afraid that if we say anything, we might come across that way.

We don’t do well with blemishes. We are raised to everything has to look perfect and everything has to be perfect. It’s important to talk about our scars because they impact our lives more than anything else. Our scars are oftentimes what drives and influence how we act both in the workplace, in our personal lives and how we respond to others. We bring those scars into every relationship.

We have to know how to talk about our scars because we have to know how they affect us because they can affect us from performing at our best. I used the example earlier of how I was in the workplace of worrying about if somebody looking at my scars. As a Manager, I try to approach my team by being empathetic and understanding where everybody is coming from.

There’s not a one size fits all approach. I try to meet everyone where they are. I’m not saying that you pry to the personal lives of your team or you are sitting at all to share your scars. What I mean by this is you understand where that person is coming from. It can help you navigate how to respond, coach and guide that person. I have had team members who come out of a meeting and they have a very different perception of what happened than others do.

Maybe that’s because they have had a bad professional experience before or they have had something that’s happened that makes them do something differently. It’s important as leaders to be authentic about our own scars. To reveal those as appropriate in work settings but also to get to know our teams and understand where they are coming from so that we can be empathetic and meet them where they are. That’s going to inspire them to follow you and be motivated to achieve the goals that you have for your business.

TTL 875 | Burn Survivor
Burn Survivor: That’s a great benefit of hindsight and of life experiences that you can look back and say, “I went through this terrible experience, but I made it through.”

 

You brought up a lot of important things. What came to mind when you were saying that was Mel Gibson and Rene Russo comparing their scars in Lethal Weapon. I had a leader with who I worked. It was a long time before I knew he had been an orphan and in the military. I noticed he had lost part of a finger and I never knew what it was. You could tell he had a lot of stories to tell but he didn’t share that. How do we know how much to share?

It’s not something I insert randomly. It’s something that if anybody asks, I always have the policy, especially when it comes to my physical scars, I’m more than happy to talk about that. A lot of the people I work with have read my book and they know my story. It’s a case-by-case basis depending on the individual and the relationship you have with that individual. I have certain members of my team who do want to talk about certain things and they are more able to do that. Others don’t and that’s okay too.

It’s knowing your team’s barometer and what they need to know. Some people want to know more than others and that’s okay. I’m happy to talk a little bit about that. There are some things that I have kept to myself in this experience. Even with the book, I try to be as transparent and authentic as possible but there are parts of my experience that are just mine and that’s okay, too. It depends on your comfort level of how much you want to share and how appropriate it is depending on the setting. It’s something that I am open about, I’m not ashamed to say and talk about what I have been through, and how that makes me a better person now.

That’s a great benefit of hindsight and of life experiences that you can look back, and you could say, “I went through this terrible experience but I made it through.” When I was fifteen, I didn’t have anything to compare it to. It felt like the end of the world but now I can look back and whatever challenge I’m facing at work or whatever it is, I can take that and say, “I made it through then, I can make it through now.” The big thing I try with my team, I feel like this has given me this drive to make my life count because I don’t know how much time I have left. I almost died. I could have died when I was fifteen. I don’t know what’s next.

I’m happy to live another day. I’m happy to be able to wake up every morning and have the chance to lead my team. I want every conversation I have with my team to matter what it is. I want to use every conversation at every moment to help, encourage, inspire and motivate them to achieve their goals. I see leading as an opportunity to serve others and use this experience as a motivation to make the most of the time I have left on this Earth.

That’s an obvious great outlook. If you can have that and see the value, you wonder what you would have been like if you hadn’t gone through it, if you would have appreciated things as much. I often ask people who have gone through all these things, what would you change? You wouldn’t want to have gone through that but you never know what it helped you become because you did go through that. You have a degree in Government International Politics and you are married. Do you have kids?

No kids, yet. We just celebrated our wedding anniversary.

Congratulations. You were worried about that at fifteen, the dating scene and all that. How long was it before you felt comfortable to go out, start dating and doing things that normal fifteen-year-olds would do?

That was the scar I carried with me the longest through my experience. I didn’t go on my first date until I was 21, almost 22. When I did go out and start dating because I wasn’t in that place of healing, I was getting into relationships that were toxic and that weren’t life-giving for me. I talk a little bit about this in the book and there’s one experience in particular of dating someone. Even though I wasn’t getting treated very well, feeling like this is what I deserved because it was my one shot at love, I didn’t think anybody was going to want to be with me. That was hard and I created new scars through the process of some of those dating experiences and that was challenging.

I had to reach a place where I decided that I had self-worth, I was valuable, and I deserve to be treated with respect and love. It took me a long time to get there but once I did, I met my now wife a few months after reaching that place. I was able to be in a relationship with her that was healthy in that she is this amazing woman who has come into my life and has so much empathy, patience and comes to understand my story. She helped me edit my book and was involved in that process. I’m so grateful to her. It was allaying my fears and laying those to rest. After meeting her, building a marriage and in a relationship with her, it has been amazing, a healing and redemptive aspect of my story.

It will be interesting when you have children, how they will look at it. My dad was born legally blind. Basically, he was blind. He couldn’t get around without me guiding him. It didn’t seem anything to me as a kid because you have always been around that. As I’m older, I look back and think, “It was a different thing but he handled it like it was nothing.

To me, it didn’t seem like anything. My last book was on perception after curiosity because how we all view ourselves and view other people is a fascinating thing to study. You obviously have come through this with a lot of empathy, good leadership ideas for people and things that you found as positive. Are you considering making this into a movie? What’s next with this? Have you given up hope of getting legal ramifications from this and where does this go from here?

I always tell people if I could go back in time and back to the future as it were, I would definitely prevent things from happening. I would find a way to not be there on that day but I do realize that the good things that have come out of it and the lessons I have learned that I probably wouldn’t have learned any other way, that have helped me reach that place of acceptance.

I have been amazed by the success of my book thus far. First, I wondered if this would just appeal to burn survivors but it has been something that I have heard from readers who have very different life experiences in all walks of life, who were touched by my story and were able to use that as a part of their healing journey.

It has been cool to be a part of that and redemptive. I wouldn’t mind the movie. That would be great to make a movie out of it. I continue to talk with people like you and I go on shows and have speaking engagements. Eventually, I don’t know if I could see myself continuing to do that in the future full-time going into motivational speaking or continuing to share this story with whoever wants to listen.

The goal is to transform this experience into something that helps other people, helps them see their own scars, whether they are physical or emotional and helps them be able to reach that place of healing so that they too can help others. There’s such power in sharing stories. The world needs to hear all of our stories because we all are unique and have unique experiences. There’s so much we can learn from others. I’m a big proponent of reach that place of healing and then share your story with others, and help someone else who’s farther along or is farther behind you on the road to healing so that they can reach that same place.

You shared this with other people and I’m sure other people who’ve got burns and are going through the bad part of it, it helps to hear that but you had to have spent a fortune. Plastic surgery is not cheap. Did your parents have good insurance?

Thankfully, they did have good insurance, which has covered a lot of it. There were some other expenses, on top of that but thankfully we had insurance. I can’t imagine what it would have been like because you are right, it is expensive. It’s getting plastic surgery and being in and out of hospitals, admitted out of surgery and appointments to doctor’s offices. I felt like I spent a lot of my teenage years in doctor’s offices, in the waiting room. It’s a huge expense. My heart goes out to families who don’t have insurance or don’t have the means to be able to get through that because it is it’s hugely expensive. It’s a long road.

TTL 875 | Burn Survivor
Burn Survivor: For a lot of us, we go through hard things, and it never leaves us. The goal doesn’t need to be that it leaves you. The goal can be that you use that experience for good.

 

I have always been afraid. I’m probably the only plastic surgeon’s wife with a big nose. If I go to these meetings with all the other plastic surgeon’s wives and they all have Michael Jackson-looking noses, these tiny little things. I’m like, “I would have a very hard time changing my face.” I can’t imagine when you wake up from that surgery and you have a different face. What is that like each time? Did you look a little different, hopefully, better but sometimes maybe not because you are swollen? What is that experience like?

There were some times where you wake up and a lot of times you didn’t look as good, you are swollen, you beat up. There are times where you’ve got new stretches there, you’ve got the coverings over those areas that you have to leave on for a week and then get to take it off a week later. There are areas for me that a lot of times would be bleeding after surgery. It was hard. You wake up to a new face. I talk a little bit about this in my book. You have to say goodbye to the face you know. You grieve that loss of the face that you know.

Each time I go to surgery knowing that you would wake up and not knowing what to expect. You never know what you are going to look like after surgery. Sometimes you look better than others but eventually, usually, it took time and it would look better over time. My doctors would always emphasize that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s going to take some time, and then you have to be applying creams sometimes, and other things to those areas. You didn’t recognize yourself.

When you think about it, I had somebody tell me this a few years ago about when you meet someone for the first time, it’s their face that you noticed. A huge part of your identity is your face and you feel like it’s constantly changing. I had to do deep and find out who I was outside of my appearance because otherwise, it was constantly changing.

I wouldn’t know what I looked like and based on what my appearance was, it would affect how I viewed myself. It was something that I have that strong discipline about knowing and telling myself who I was. Being careful about the thought patterns that I had and going back to those dark places after surgery because can shake you and be with you. Now, I have reached that place of healing. It’s so different now than it was back then but it never leaves you.

For a lot of us, we go through hard things and it never leaves us. The goal maybe doesn’t need to be that it leaves you. The goal can be that you use that experience for good, that it informs who you are, and that you take the good from the bad and move forward in that. It’s something that’s still there. I still have to be careful about going out and spending too much time in the sun to make sure that I don’t get sunburn on those areas on my face. I still have some sinus issues as a result of the accident. Some things happen that it’s still uncomfortable in these areas. It feels like having a piece of rubber underneath your lip.

With men though, men can get away with a rugged look. Yours doesn’t look worse. I’m sure at the beginning, it was much worse but when I look at your picture now, it could be more rugged. For a woman though, do you think it would have been different?

I thought of that before and I think it would have been even harder in some ways because there are different expectations per gender. As a man, you can get away with a rugged look. It affects you in different ways. As a man, you want to feel strong. You want to feel you can go out and do anything. I didn’t feel that way as a teenager or a young adult but as a woman, it would be very challenging. The cultural expectations of a woman and how they are supposed to appear, an accident like this would be very challenging.

I have had, mostly men on my show. I don’t know if I have had any female accidents. I had one guy who had a missile go through his eye while he was in the war covering as a journalist and the one guy with the tree through his face. I did have Leslie. She was a military person. She lost limbs and had a real hard time with that. I remember asking her about it when she went blind.

To transform an experience from something that never should have happened into a redemptive one of helping other people is powerful. Click To Tweet

At that point, her biggest concern was how she was going to do her hair and her makeup. She was funny the way she was talking about it. She was beautiful too, I remember looking at her picture. The trauma for women, we have a different aspect of how it affects us. This book could be helpful in so many ways, what you have gone through, what you have experienced for everybody who’s had to go through any trauma. A lot of people are going to want to read your book and find out more. Is there someplace that you want to share that they can do that or find you?

There are a ton more to my story that we weren’t able to cover including a twist ending regarding the true identity of the owner of the sulfuric acid, which ends the book. You don’t want to miss out on this story and the lessons I learned along the way. Your readers can grab their copy of Can You See My Scars? on Amazon.com. There’s also Kindle versions and originally published audiobook version of my book. I know audiobooks are all the rage these days. You can listen to my story through the audiobook version. You can also learn more about me by visiting SamuelMoore-Sobel.com and you can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram @SMoore_Sobel and feel free to reach out to me there.

I hope everybody takes time to research your work. This was nice of you to share. This is a very traumatic story and I appreciate you having the perspective now to laugh at some of this because it’s horrible what you went through. I can’t even imagine having the sense of not curling up and not getting over this because it would be very hard for so many people. You have found your way through a terrible thing. I hope that your experience helps other people because your perception of life experiences is so important and you see it very positively. Thank you for sharing.

Thank you so much, Diane. It has been an honor to be here. You asked great questions. I appreciate being able to share my story with your readers and I hope it impacts others for good and that my story helps them come to peace with their scars.

Yes, I do, too. You are welcome.

I want to thank Samuel for being my guest. His story was fascinating and it brought back some memories of the work of my uncle Ralph. He’s an interesting guy. You might want to look up his book, Saving Faces. He gives his life story in it. I know he goes into a lot of detail about family stuff and different things but the things he had to do to create the cleft palate procedures and everything, that changed the world.

He was one of the top plastic surgeons of the Millennium. I’ve gone to Ralph Millard society dinner in the past and it was so amazing to see people honoring him for everything that he has done to help people like Samuel and others who have had disfiguring issues. He used to go to different countries throughout the world. Some people, a lot of them had syphilis and terrible things. Their noses would be gone and terrible parts of their faces removed. He did a lot of good to help the world.

His book was interesting. He wrote about my dad, he was Ross Hamilton. I’ve got to mention towards the end, my husband and I, that he had invited us to some event or something he mentioned to us in the book but it was nice to read about what he had done and the things he had help people achieve through his work. People like Samuel go through such traumatic things after having a big accident like that.

I told Samuel after the show, his parents, it would be so traumatic to go through all that. He had an interesting twist, you have to read the book to find out what he found out about the sulfuric acid owner. It’s important to check out his book because he’s got an amazing story to tell. I enjoyed having him on the show.

If you have missed any past guests, you can go to DrDianeHamilton.com. If you are looking for more information about curiosity or perception, that’s all on the site too. The dropdown menus at the top give you all that. If you look at the bottom, you also can find testimonials for the show. It’s fun to see what people have said about not just the show but my speaking and The Curiosity Code Index and different things that people have rated at the bottom.

If you go to some of the different links, the About me page and at the bottom, there are a bunch of pictures of people who have been on the show, which is fun. Whenever I get to meet people on the show, I try to take a picture with them. If I meet them in person and place it on the scrolling bottom row there. People like Steve Forbes or Ken Fisher, all the great people I have met along the way are all listed along the bottom. I hope you would take a look at the site because there’s so much fun information there. I hope you enjoyed this episode and join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Samuel Moore-Sobel

TTL 875 | Burn SurvivorSamuel Moore-Sobel is an author, speaker and columnist. His debut memoir, Can You See My Scars? is the story of a harrowing encounter with sulfuric acid, trauma and severe burns. His book is currently available for purchase on Amazon. He writes about trauma and his experience as a burn survivor. He has been invited to share his story with audiences across the country and offers practical advice on how to overcome adversity. He has a degree in government and international politics and currently lives with his wife in Northern Virginia.

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