Kilee Brookbank is your typical college student: A native of Georgetown, Ohio, she is currently a sophomore at Xavier University with a sunny smile. She is close to her large family, enjoys spending her free time with friends, and is hard at work completing a degree in communications. In fact, it would be difficult for most people to tell that she almost lost her life in a house explosion in 2014—and that blood products helped her on the long road to recovery.
Kilee was 16 years old in November of 2014, when her world was turned upside down in a matter of seconds. After arriving home from school one afternoon, she noticed an unpleasant smell and decided to light a candle to mask the odor.
“As soon as I lit the candle, everything blew up,” Kilee recalls. “I fell backwards and woke up to my dog barking at me. We ran out of the house and went to my neighbor's.”
The neighbors had already heard the massive explosion, and sprang into action when Kilee came running for help, with her hair singed and burns covering her body. They poured water on her burns and waited with her after calling an ambulance and her parents.
“I ended up being air-cared to Children's Hospital where they realized they couldn't do as much for me as they needed to,” Kilee says. “From there, they transported me across the street to Shriners Hospitals for Children where I stayed for 38 days.”
The explosion had resulted in burns on over forty percent of Kilee’s body—many of those burns being third-degree. Kilee says the painful recovery process took a full year, but blood products were among the first treatments she received at Shriners.
“In my first few days at Shriners, I received blood two separate times because I had lost a lot of blood from the accident,” she says. “Without this blood, it would have been very hard for me to keep living, let alone recover from this experience.”
Kilee’s recovery process was long and painful—she needed multiple skin grafts and extensive care for the burns that covered much of her body. And even after being discharged from Shriners ahead of schedule, she had to return a few times a week for rehab sessions involving lots of stretching and physical activity. But Kilee was determined to get back to her normal life, and soon her visits were reduced to once a week, then every few weeks, and now to check-ups every year.
“Today I am doing great,” Kilee says. “I am a college student living a normal life, and I have decided to turn this horrible thing that happened into a good thing. My mom and I wrote a book called Beautiful Scars: A Life Redefined to tell our story and hope to inspire others in similar situations to keep living and push themselves to be great in life, despite their differences. I also am a patient ambassador at Shriners where I talk to kids who are like me to give them and their families hope in their recovery.”
And while Kilee is back to living the normal life of a college student, she has not forgotten the impact that blood donors have had on her recovery.
“I am deathly terrified of needles (which is ironic, I know), and because of this I never have given blood,” Kilee says. “But if you are thinking about donating blood, think about all the potential people that it could help. I know how it feels to help people in any way that I can and it feels so rewarding to do so. This is just one other way that people can help others, and it may even change someone’s life.”
“I would not be where I am today if it weren't for blood donors and their selfless act of kindness,” she finishes. “My recovery would not have been what it was if it weren't for their amazing donation.”