By India Ogazi
Some are drawn to Galveston for its beaches. Some are drawn to the island to escape from the fast pace of city life. But for Patt Lindsey it was a hospital stay more than 65 years ago that drew her to the island. And then back again.
It was a cold, rainy morning in White Oak, Texas, in 1945, when 8-year-old Patt went next door to her cousin’s house to wait for the school bus. As she warmed herself at the space heater, her rain coat accidently got pulled into the heater and immediately ignited, burning her face and hands. “I had third-degree burns,” said Patt. “I lost my fifth finger, as well as nails on my left hand, my eyebrows and part of one ear.”
She began receiving treatments in an area hospital, but her parents were told that the best doctors for burn victims were in Galveston. So her parents sold their car, packed their belongings and relocated to Galveston. She became a patient at the John Sealy Hospital burn unit, now the Blocker Burn Unit at UTMB
, and underwent five surgeries in the course of one year.
The physical and emotional pains from being burned were devastating, but Patt chose not to dwell on those memories. Rather, she remembered the kindness and comfort of the nurses at UTMB. “I just idolized the nurses, I thought they were angels,” she said. “I’ve always given them credit for my life.” She also praises her family’s unwavering encouragement for her emotional recovery. “The support from my family, teachers and community enabled me to live a very full life,” said Patt.
By the end of 1946, Patt was released from the hospital, and she and her family returned to Northeast Texas to the neighboring town of Gilmer, but Galveston never left her heart.
Patt was so impressed by the dedicated care and attention provided by the nurses that she decided she wanted to be a nurse and came back to attend UTMB’s School of Nursing after finishing high school. But, as the story often goes, she fell in love, got married and moved before she finished nursing school. But that didn’t stop her from giving back to the field of medicine that had given so her so much — she went on to work as a patient advocate and medical transcriptionist. Throughout the years, she returned to Galveston on vacation breaks, always feeling a connection to the island.
They say home is where the heart is and so after 68 years, Patt moved and made Galveston her home. Patt is planning to volunteer at the Blocker Burn Unit, where she hopes to help build confidence in other burn survivors by sharing her story of recovery and rebirth.
While she can’t claim to be a BOI, Born on the Island, she’s come up with her own acronym. “I told my realtor I’m a RBOI,” said Patt, “I say that I was reborn on the island because, if I hadn’t come here, I wouldn’t be alive today.”