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Burn survivor credits VGH and GF Strong for giving her hope

On June 12, 1998, Heidi Cave, 23, and best friend Betty, 21, were driving when a speeding car slammed into the passenger side and T-boned her car. The impact pushed the car across the road into a ravine. They landed upside down and were trapped inside. Unfortunately, Betty was killed instantly.

The near-fatal car accident left Heidi with burns to 52 per cent of her body and in a two-week drug induced coma, in which her father had to make an agonizing decision. He had to agree to allow the doctors to amputate his daughter's right leg below the knee. Within the next seven months, Heidi endured countless painful surgeries at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH), including another to amputate her left leg. She also spent an additional five months in rehabilitation.

She credits the BC Professional Fire Fighters' Burn, Plastic and Trauma Unit at VGH as well as GF Strong Rehab Centre for giving her hope and teaching her to be a survivor rather than a victim.

"The doctors and nurses played a huge hand in both my physical and emotional survival," she says. "They helped me through the whole process; it takes incredibly compassionate individuals to do that."

VGH is the only Level One trauma centre in the province. As well, VGH's Burn Unit is the only site in BC where severely burned patients can be constantly monitored and receive intensive specialized care.

"I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the amazing care and compassion I received. We are so lucky in British Columbia to have these facilities," she says.

Today, the vibrant wife and mother of two young children has written a soon to be published book, titled Fancy Feet, and is a sought-after motivational speaker. Heidi has spoken in front of thousands of fire fighters across North America, and even shared a billing with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.