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Juan Pablo Inspires Other Patients to be Strong

It seemed like a normal day for Juan Pablo; at least, it started out that way.

He was alone at his family’s home in Panama while his mother was at work, when the 14-year-old decided to cook a meal on the kitchen stove. It was something he did all the time, but for some reason, that day, the gas stove would not light.

He stood there for a few seconds, curious as to why the stove was not working properly, and then turned around to walk away. Suddenly, a fireball erupted from the stove, engulfing him in flames and throwing him to the floor. He was in agonizing pain and surrounded by flames, and he quickly realized he had to get out as fast as possible. He ran to a nearby window, jumped out of the house, and ran into the street for help.

Juan Pablo was rushed to a nearby hospital in Panama, where he remained for the next five days. He sustained burns over 87% of his body, and was in critical condition. He was soon transferred to Shriners Children’s Texas in Galveston, where he would continue to recover for about a year after the accident.

Three years later, Juan Pablo had come a long way, both physically and emotionally. For a long time, it was hard for him to talk about the accident and the injuries he suffered. Now, he wants to share his story and help other burn survivors like him with their recovery. His mother, Jackie, said that he has become an inspiration to several others.

All the nurses, doctors, and everyone – they’re very passionate and dedicated to doing what they have to do to help the patient.
Jackie, Juan Pablo's mother

“I feel very proud that he wants to tell his story because, for me, it has been a source of inspiration,” Jackie said. “He knows and understands he has a very important place on this earth because of the opportunity God gave him, and he has a very beautiful testimony of overcoming everything.”

One way he inspires is by mentoring other patients and giving them pep talks. On a recent visit to Shriners Children’s Texas, he befriended a fellow teen boy who was having a tough time with his treatment.

“He couldn’t walk much, so I was motivating him through walking with the therapist and the doctor,” Juan Pablo said about his fellow patient. “You need to keep going. You need to have faith and strength.”

Juan Pablo and his mother are both grateful for the personal care he received at Shriners Children’s Texas, and they credit that care for helping him not only to survive, but thrive. As a testament to that fact, he is now able to play basketball again. It was one of his favorite things to do before the accident, and he was afraid that he might not be able to return to the game. However, after many surgeries, therapy and hard work, he is now back out on the court with his friends.

“All the nurses, doctors, and everyone – they’re very passionate and dedicated to doing what they have to do to help the patient,” Jackie said. “They make you feel reassured that they’re going to be here to help you out.”

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