Burn survivor inspires many by wearing scars with pride

At 22 years old, Harley Dabbs is no stranger to bullying. Although the North Carolina native looks different than many women her age, her powerful story continues to inspire countless people.  

When Harley was two and a half years old, her family's house caught fire leaving her badly injured as a result. 

Over 80% of Harley's body was covered in burns. She was taken to two different hospitals before being airlifted to Shriners Children's Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio where she spent three months. Doctors believed she had a 2% chance of survival. But the little girl stunned her medical team by beating the odds. 

For the past 19 years, Harley has had to travel back to Cincinnati to undergo countless skin grafts and surgeries. By doing so, she has been able to meet other survivors just like herself. 

“Shriners is my second home. I felt like I was another species and it made me feel okay being there because there were people who looked like I did  I actually felt like I belonged."

As she grew older, Harley had a hard time facing the world outside the hospital. She was constantly tormented by bullies, and dealt with bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts. “I wouldn’t go anywhere. I wouldn’t leave my house,” Harley said. “If I did go somewhere, I would fully cover myself no matter how hot it was outside. I’d wear coats and long pants.”

Once she finally began to embrace herself, Harley decided to get a tattoo of the mythical rising phoenix with the biblical quote, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." 

Though much of her newfound positivity came from within, Harley does credit her boyfriend Joshua for his undying support. "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.”

Harley hopes that her strength can serve as inspiration for others struggling with society's distorted view of beauty. Not only does she share motivational photos with 27,000 Instagram followers, but her story has also been shared thousands of times on Facebook. She is now engaged to her boyfriend Joshua and has big dreams for the future: "I hope to become a nurse and a motivational speaker. I’m supposed to help others, burned or not, realize they’re beautiful regardless of what society portrays.”

A mighty phoenix indeed! This young woman’s desire to fully accept herself illustrates the infinite power of the human spirit. 

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