Fresno burn survivor turned her trauma into helping others

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Memorial Day was founded as a day to honor those killed in war. But for one Fresno family the holiday this year falls on the anniversary of an event as tragic as any casualty of war.

With scarred but caring hands, registered nurse Sandra Hishida has helped heal wounds caused by disease, injury, and burns. She knows all too well what it's like to be a patient.

Sandra Hishida said, "I don't know what it's like not to be burned I've lived most of my life as a burn survivor."

On May 25th, 1970, fire caused by an electrical short engulfed the family home on Everest Street in Northwest Fresno. Sandra was critically injured but survived the flames that claimed the lives of her three brothers. 7-year-old David, 10-year-old Earl and 11-year-old Ramon. Sandra was sent to the Shriners burn hospital in Galveston, Texas. Her mother, Elizabeth recalls how it was weeks until she was able to ask what happened.

Elizabeth explained, "She whispered, she said, 'Where are my brothers?'"

After losing three children Elizabeth says Sandra became her only reason for living.

Elizabeth added, "So I kept on and kept on and kept on and by grace of god I'm here, until he calls me, I'll be with my boys."

For Sandra, it was her mother's strength along with family and community support that helped her survive the grueling treatments over 11 years. But it was the nurses at Shriners Hospital that set her on her life's path.

"Very loving, compassionate a very supporting place," said Sandra. "I feel like I grew up in the hospital. It felt natural that was the direction I was going to take."

Sandra became a nurse and spent years in the burn unit at Community Regional Medical Center, also working with young burn survivors at a summer camp. She notes that despite the advances in treatment since she was a child, burn survivors face a very tough road.

"If it's a catastrophic burn it's still a long recovery," said Sandra. "It's still a lot of pain. Unfortunately it's hard to take away all the pain. It's painful, long road to recovery."

She believes her own experience as a burn survivor has helped her deal with patients with burns and other injuries. She now works in wound care. Sandra is 52-years-old married, has two children, she spends time with her widowed mother. It's a good life. A survivor, she turned her trauma into helping others, but lives with the memory of the three brothers she lost.

Sandra explained, "There's always been a void I do remember them, I have memories being the little sister they picked on me a lot, I don't know - I remember being close and loving them."

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