Third-degree burn survivor battles low self-esteem

A burn injury regardless of its size can significantly alter how the body looks and functions, especially when the scars are visible.

This leads to body image distress for people who have experienced them, 23-year-old Palesa Peterson, a third-degree burn survivor from Sikwane some 55 km east of Gaborone, says.

She sustained the burns when her parents’ house in Gaborone burnt down in November 2021. Third-degree burns cause damage to the top and middle layers of skin and the fatty layer.

Peterson was burned while trying to put out the fire in the kitchen where it started. She was with her 90-year-old grandmother and sisters when the house burnt.

“We were watching a movie in the sitting room and our neighbour came running and told us that there is fire in the kitchen. We all panicked at that moment and ran to see what was happening and the first thing that I thought of was the gas cylinder.

“I was really scared it would blast and kill everyone in the house,” she said, adding that she quickly tried moving the cylinder away, while her mother was fetching water to put out the fire.

“Immediately I touched the gas cylinder, the flame slapped me on the face and body,” she said.

Fortunately, Peterson’s family managed to escape. She believes it was by luck that she managed to remove the gas cylinder before it burst into flames.

Although Peterson has now recovered from the burns, she is failing to accept her scars.

She is currently struggling, especially in relationships. She feels insecure. She can only thank God that her face is fully recovered and her original complexion is back.

Peterson is currently battling low self-esteem as her thighs bear scars. She feels ashamed to undress and expose her body when she is with her boyfriend.

“I always fear for my relationship with my boyfriend that he might leave me for someone without scars. I seem not to accept my scars and it really bothers me a lot,” Peterson said.

She said most people do not believe what she went through. She sometimes regrets the decision she took to save her family because she could have not been affected by the fire.

She encouraged those who have sustained third-degree burns to follow health professionals’ instructions.

To boost her self-confidence Peterson visits different hospitals praying for burn victims. She believes that by doing so, many are encouraged to know that they too can make it