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The Burn Patient Who Laughed

by Arnold Stobbe with Naomi Epp

Arnold Stobbe after time of burns I was 37 years old and had never stayed a night in a hospital and hoped I never would. Then one day my life changed. Within minutes, a gas fire left me with a badly burned body! Doctors were amazed that I was still alive!!

My wife and I had eight little children, and she was 8 months pregnant with our ninth child. What a time to be a burn patient in the hospital!!! How did it happen?

11:56 pm, Saturday, July 17, 1965, I began pouring gas into my old farm tractor so it would be ready for Monday. It had been a long day, baling hay on a quarter of land about ten miles from our home. Suddenly, the tractor burst into flames!!

the tractor in Arnold's fire Instantly my hands were burning. Then my jacket caught on fire. With burning hands I pulled on my zipper so that I could throw off the burning jacket. The zipper was too hot to work. What can I do? I thought. Oh, yeah, roll. Rolling in the dirt as I'd been taught, I quickly realized the flames were only spreading!! I saw a bale standing up. I laid it down and pressed my body against it.

Thankfully, the fire was smothered. Leaving the tractor to burn out, I walked over to my car and sped the seven and a half miles to the local hospital. A spark on my sleeve flared up. I wiped it out.

Praying for safety as I flew across the highway, I soon arrived at the hospital and screeched to a halt. Hastily I tore the shirt off my body and threw it onto the ground where it burned up.

Arnold's young daughters at home Our local doctor in Borden carefully bandaged my burnt chest, back, hands, and leg. Thankfully, he had recently arrived from Britain (UK) and had studied burns. A day later he ordered an ambulance to transfer me to the University Hospital in Saskatoon where I was carried on a stretcher to a room and placed on a bed.

Arnold's young sons at home On my farm were 4 little boys and 4 young girls, ages 1-8, all so young to milk the cows and feed the cattle and chickens. Here I was, a burn patient, lying helplessly on a hospital bed.

I stared up at the cracks in the ceiling and wondered how long I'd have to look at them. Depression hit! . . . .

"Lord, help!" I prayed.

Soon the Lord put a pigeon on my window sill and brought a Bible verse to my mind, " pigeon on window sill at the hospital (or one like this) What is the price of two sparrows - one copper coin? But not a sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. . . . So don't be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows." (Matthew 10: 29,31) I am valuable to God, I thought. My depression left and never came back!!

Because I not only had many first degree and second degree burns, but also third degree burns on 25% of my body, I was very sensitive to fluff and dust. I could feel fluff or dust under my bed and even on the bed frame or on the window sill. Since I was flat in bed, I could not see the dust. But, I felt it, and it bothered me! I could tell where it was. Usually the most fluff was under my head in the corner on the floor, and it was very hard to get at with big mops. A few times I asked the cleaning person to do a better job. This sensitivity to fluff and dust lasted until my burns were completely healed.

hospital visit drawing One time I had something in my nose. Since my burned hands were all bandaged up, I used my wrist bone to try to get it out. As I was struggling, a nurse came in, saw me, and kindly asked if she could help. "Yes," I replied. Did it ever feel good to have that out!

Another time a Doctor ordered that a fan blow on my open flesh. "It will hurt," he said, "But you need it to heal." It felt like a sand blaster!! It was very cold!

The next time I saw the doctor, I asked, "Could you please switch the fan off?"

"No," was his reply. Waiting until the night nurse came on, I began shaking very hard. I couldn't stop shaking. [A lot of it was pretending.] Thankfully, that nurse had pity on me and turned off the fan. She must have written in her report how I shook because the next morning the fan was taken away.

Recovery for a burn patient can be very painful. Thin layers of skin had to be cut from my left leg and the unburned parts of my right leg. This skin was then grafted onto my chest, back, and hands. My legs had to be raised so that they would heal. After the skin had grown back on my legs, the doctor again cut more layers of skin to do more grafting. It was a painful process - one that no burn patient enjoys. After 3 weeks of laying flat in bed, I could no longer walk. I was told that I had to learn. Being pushed to learn to walk on legs that were still raw from having the skin removed was agonizing!!!

One Thursday morning, the doctor ordered a nurse to give me a bath. The next morning as the doctor was checking the burn patients, he came to me and asked, "How did you like your bath?"

"I didn't get one," I replied. The doctor turned on his heel and headed straight to the nurses' station. I could hear him talking with the nurse, but couldn't understand what they said. Later the nurse walked over to my bedside and informed me that I would have my bath on Monday when the burns orderly, the expert for giving burn patients a bath, would be back from holidays.

Pete, the burns orderly, arrived in my room on Monday morning. While he was talking with me, the head nurse came in. The subject of my needing a bath came up. "Well," Pete said to me. "If it's okay with you, I'll first go for coffee before I begin this big job."

"Fine," I replied. Having waited so many days, a few more minutes wouldn't make much difference.

"That'll give me some time to get you some help," the head nurse told Pete.

They sure are afraid of something, I thought. I don't know what it could be. After all, Pete was the one trained in giving burn patients a bath.

When Pete finally brought me to the tub, I stepped in. The water was nice and warm. I lay down and soaked. Pete waited. After some time, he began to peel off my dressings, little by little, until they were all off. Then as I sat on the table, he wrapped on the new dressings. A 17 year old girl who was working for the summer helped him put on the dressings. We were joking, and Pete said something to me in German.

"Watch out what you say, or I'll say something in French," the teenage girl said.

"We'll call you shtremp [stocking]", responded Pete. I burst out laughing.

Arnold home from hospital after his burns healed With that, the little window in the door of the room was continually full of nurses, amazed to see a burn patient laughing. We continued to have fun.

After this bath, Pete didn't get a chance to bath me and change my dressing. There were lots of volunteer nurses that wanted to learn to care for a burn patient, especially one who could joke and laugh. Most burn patients would scream and swear with pain when their dressings were peeled off!! People were praying for me, and God answered their prayers. I was their first burn patient to enjoy a bath!!


Other testimonies by Arnold Stobbe:
I Would Like That JOY!
Overworked, BUT - God Said...
"Visit in the Hospital? . . . Not Me!"
Serve Faithfully - God Can Use You!
Our House is on Fire!
A New Church in Town
Going to Heaven!
Working with Western Tract Mission


Back to Index of Hope Testimonies

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