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Finding Positivity Through Tragedy

Updated: Oct 28, 2019

Christopher Gage and Ryan Gage
Home at last from the hospital. Ryan and I staying positive while giving each other support after the accident.

Let me introduce myself – my name is Christopher Gage and I am a burn survivor. This is a label that I thought I would never personally use. Frankly, I am very uncomfortable describing myself this way, but, it is my reality now.

Approaching the anniversary date of my burn accident, I’ve been reflecting more than I expected about the hours and days surrounding August 12, 2018.

Realizing a ten-year dream of building a business with my son in the culinary industry, Ryan and I had finally opened Garofalo’s Calabria. In the Spring of 2017, our mobile food trailer was such a long-awaited triumph.

After just one and a half years in operation, we experienced the consequences of an undetectable propane leak. The food trailer exploded with my son inside, and me at the door entrance.

I was in the wrong place, as all of the energy from the explosion funneled its way through the open doorway. We both ended up at Crozer Medical Center outside Philadelphia in medically induced comas – Ryan with thirty percent body burns, while I had 40 percent.

Initially, our prognosis for surviving from our injuries was uncertain.

Thankfully, through the process of healing, my son will have no physical scars. He is still bothered with after effects of the burns he had around his stomach and back, as well as his arms. I worry about his emotional well-being.

My injuries covered my torso, arms, and shoulders, and required a lengthier stay in the burn unit. I also needed skin grafts on various areas of my sides, stomach, and arms. Additionally, I lost forty percent of my peripheral vision in my left eye due to the initial explosion.

Months after suffering this devastating event, I declared to myself that I would in no way use the term “burnaversary.” Nor would I celebrate or recognize the date of the accident.

Although I’ve come around with my thinking quite a bit since then, I felt I was in a good place approaching August 12th this year.

Some unexpected emotions have crept into my thought as of late. So I decided to look back at just how far I have come in the last year, and what my approach was in getting here.

Garofalo's Calabria food trailer fire.
The aftermath of the explosion and fire August 12, 2018.

Why Write A Blog?

I feel a strong need to give back in some capacity. Give back to what, and how? Right now, I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I do know that writing is a wonderful way for me to express myself.

I feel that my story is one that can inspire others who may have gone through a similar journey as I have. Perhaps these words might give hope to those who have had an event of trauma in their lives. Might there be some aspect of my story that can touch someone, even if they are not a burn survivor?

outpatient wound care at Crozer Medical Center
Several nurses tend to me during outpatient wound care. Here I am trying on my compression jacket for the first time.

My story is a personal one of a horrific accident and the incredible loss associated with that event. It’s also about summoning up of a strength deep inside oneself to put one’s life back together again.

It is a story full of pain, struggle, grief, caring, compassion, love, and gratitude, and about incredible dedication. Dedication of loved ones and friends, first responders, doctors, nurses, and hospital staff. And a dedication to myself to not only heal, but to be the best person I can be under new circumstances.

My search for a way to give back has been a long and continual one, but I have landed on this blog you are reading. My intent is not to come across to the reader as a know-it-all, or an expert, or someone who always has the right answers.

Instead, my hope is to write in each blog post about a specific aspect of my experience in real, and sometimes raw terms. I am excited to describe my approach in facing life’s circumstances thrown at me. I can only claim to be someone who knows a thing or two about my own healing and recovery.

I will admit though, that I am a bit scared to write this blog because I will ultimately be putting myself out there. I am normally a very private person, and now I will be disclosing my flaws as a human being for all to see. In the end, I want to keep this as real as possible, proceeding forward without the fear that in the past would have paralyzed me.

The Power of Positivity

The one constant thread that has run through my life during the past year, and will continue to guide me in the future, is positivity.

People define the power of positivity and discuss the theory that surrounds it in many ways. I simply used a positive outlook to my advantage in helping me get through some pretty rough times in the hospital.

I chose the word simply above to show that there was no deep thought process about whether this would work for me or not. It was just such an automatic go-to for me, that it never crossed my mind to proceed in any other way.

Let me be perfectly clear though - I’m not claiming that the practice of using positivity, especially in such difficult circumstances, was easy. It’s not! Far from it.

For most of my life prior to my accident, I often found having a positive outlook a very difficult thing to do. I guess you could have described me as a pessimist.

I often describe to my wife Holly, that the blast from the explosion literally, “Blew my depression and anxiety out of me.” Neither of us have any idea how that process works and what happened there, but I hope to someday find out.

Since my accident, I’ve experienced many good things due to a positive outlook. I can’t wait to share with you through this blog!

Nolde Forest, Reading, PA
A walk through Nolde Forest allows me to realize that everything is exactly how it should be in this moment.


A technique that I found extremely helpful early on, while confined to my hospital bed, was being present. This was not easy to do, especially when my mind wanted to constantly wander off and replay in detail the painful moments of the accident.

Being present means being mindful of exactly what is going on around you, right now, in this moment.

An act as simple as being present among family and friends is much more rewarding than thinking about work tomorrow. Think of it this way - the present moment is all you have. What you did yesterday is gone and cannot change, what you are thinking about for tomorrow can never happen right now.

Focusing on the moment at hand, allowed me to block out any negative thoughts about what happened in the past, and what I might have to face in the days and weeks to come.

Looking Forward

As I embark on this blog adventure, in future posts you can expect to read in more detail about the day of the accident. I’ll describe what I can remember about the crucial initial moments of being helped by first responders.

I will share with you the many bizarre yet incredibly real hallucinations and dreams I had while in a medically induced coma. I’ll write about the pain I felt while being under, and how the whole hospital experience worked its way into my subconscious.

You will not only read about the wonderful medical care I received, but also all of the ups and downs of daily life. I would be remiss if I didn’t describe the incredible pain and discomfort of recovery.

Crazy Lace cabochon
An example of my lapidary work. This is a Crazy Lace cabochon.

Something that I am extremely excited to share with you in the coming weeks, is how I used lapidary as a form of art therapy. It has now evolved into a new career path for me. Lapidary, by the way, is the cutting and polishing of precious and semi-precious stones into cabochons for use in jewelry making.

Gratitude for You

I want to thank you for taking the time and having an interest in following my most recent life journey through this blog. I also want to give thanks to all of you who might venture onto the other pages of this web site, which focuses on lapidary.

Be sure to check out my weekly cabochons auction "Ten at Ten on Tuesday" held every Tuesday from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM Eastern on my Facebook page.

Finally, I welcome any and all dialogue that might come to me as a result of this blog effort by way of your comments. Until next time. . .

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1 Comment

Holly Gage
Holly Gage
Aug 21, 2019

In the last year you have taught me more than you could ever imagine about facing difficulty and adversity. I've watched you conjure within yourself a bravery beyond your own capacity, if that is even possible. Every time you faced a hurdle, even with tears in your eyes, fear, doubt, and pain, you went through it versus around it. How you walked through fire and came out the other side a better person is beyond my comprehension. I am so glad you are here to celebrate life because you are living proof it's possible to have a "good" life after trauma.

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