Celeste Kratz, age 20, is a motivated young woman who is focused on achieving her goals in life. Her positive, “can-do” attitude is readily apparent as she discusses the part-time jobs she has held working at a dog kennel and more recently in women’s clothing at a department store. Now attending college, she plans to become a nurse.
Celeste is also a burn survivor. She was first treated at Shriners as a six-week-old infant who had been burned in a house fire.
“My aunt was babysitting me and my brother while caring for her own two children. I was in the living room in a carrier and her five-month-old son was in the kitchen while she was cooking. When she left the room to check on the two children playing in the yard, a grease fire started in the kitchen.”
When her aunt saw the fire, she raced to the back door leading to the kitchen and pulled her son from the burning room. She was unable to get to Celeste. “She ran outside yelling for help and two neighbors called 911. The firefighters had to smash the front window to get to me.”
Since Celeste was wearing flame resistant clothing that covered much of her body, she was primarily burned on her face, her arms and hands.
A life-flight helicopter brought Celeste to a local hospital in Philadelphia, where she was stabilized. A week later, she and her father and grandparents flew to Boston for treatment at Shriners Hospitals for Children-Boston. “Shriners paid for all accommodations for my dad, who was only 20 at the time, and his parents.”
Since Celeste’s first stay at Shriners-Boston as an infant, she has been admitted 34 times for surgeries and treatment. As she grew older and entered school, most surgeries would be scheduled in the summer, but in her seventh-grade year, Celeste had a procedure scheduled for May. “The teacher at Shriners worked with my teacher back home to get my exams so I could keep up. I graduated with everyone else that year with Shriners’ help.”
“Everyone is so great there, from childlife teachers, to doctors and nurses, to people in the cafeteria. Everyone helps you in some way, and there’s always a fast response when you need them.” Between Celeste’s medical treatments, Shriners-Boston remains available to collaborate with other medical professionals, such as Celeste’s physical therapist, when needed.
Her most recent procedure was a skin graft to her forearm, which occurred in January. Additional work is still needed on her left hand and perhaps her left elbow as well to address scarring and mobility issues.
But Celeste’s medical care and challenges don’t slow her down for long. “I believe that anything is possible! For instance, I always thought I would not be able to drive, but fortunately I got an adaptation for my car that allows me to drive with just my right hand.”
“I don’t let anything hold me back, and I’m comfortable with who I am,” she says. “In fact, my experience at Shriners has had a major impact on my life and my decision to become a nurse. I love working with kids and always wanted to pursue a career in medicine.“
Based on her own experience, Celeste has a message for other burn survivors. “It’s not the end of your life. You can still have a lot going for you even if you have a life threatening event. Be thankful that you’re alive, and with help from Shriners, you’ll be able to go forward to pursue your dreams.”