Surviving a house fire at age 2, burn victim Harley Dabbs gets a phoenix tattoo to symbolize her rise above struggles and newfound strength.
For most of her life, Californian Harley Dabbs had only known the scars that reminded her of her miraculous survival from a horrific accident as a child. At the age of 2, Harley went through immense suffering after getting caught in a devastating house fire, leaving 85% of her body burned with her having merely 2% chance of survival.
But she's still here, and nineteen years later—spirited and full of life as any young woman can be. The strong, little girl who fought for her life back then is still facing battles of her own these days, though.
Regardless of how astounding her recovery was, Harley's struggles did not end after the recovery centre Shriners discharged her. She's still to face cruel years of taunts and bullying. Her visible burn scars made her an easy target for bullies.
“At 14, I started getting depressed – I hated the way I looked and wanted to die. I contemplated suicide numerous times. I couldn’t stand looking in the mirror at myself,” the 21-year-old reveals.
Growing up had been hard for her, with all the uncertain glimpes and pitying looks she often gets from people she's never even met before. On those days, she gets her strength from her boyfriend, Joshua—who saw through her burn scars and instead, saw the light in her smile.
“He makes me feel beautiful on the days I don’t think I am. And when I can’t be strong, he stays strong for the both of us. He’s definitely held me up especially on my darkest days,” she says.
As a symbolic gift to herself, Harley decided to get a tattoo that will tell her story. She had her eye on a phoenix design with a fitting Bible passage from Psalms. The phoenix is a powerful symbol of rebirth. This mythological bird is supposed to be quite a sight to behold. The phoenix is known for setting itself on fire when it reached its peak and then emerging from its own ashes in three days, reborn and released from death as an immortal being.
She also seeks strength and guidance from the Bible. “I got tired of feeling the way I did about myself and realised this negative person wasn’t me and what happened to me, happened for a reason,” she attests. “God allowed me to live and I believe He allowed this – I’m supposed to help others, burned or not, realise they’re beautiful regardless of what society portrays.”
Harley is now looking forward to becoming a motivational speaker in the future. She's determined to stand up and empower those who bear the same scars as her and to help them accept themselves and be living testaments of the lives they lived and the demons they battled with.