The Dankberg Family | Firehouse Session | Buffalo Grove Family Photographer

Marissa is a new client of mine, and she already feels like an old friend! She’s shared some very personal stuff with me, and opened up so much in such a short time! I was honored when she asked me to come along with her and the kids to thank the Buffalo Grove Fire Department for their service. This was such a unique photography opportunity, and I know that it meant the world to Marissa to be able to share her story, so I’m going to let her tell it below!

“ If you've spent more than five minutes with me, then you know that I’m seldom at a loss for words. But that’s exactly where I find myself as I struggle to try and come up with a way to properly express my gratitude towards the Buffalo Grove Fire Department for not only coming to our rescue, but for the kindness and caring they showed my family on the Friday night just before Halloween. On this particular night, my 6 year old son was sleeping over at his dad’s house and my 3 year old son had just fallen asleep, which meant that my 7 year old daughter and I had some rare time alone together. Gearing up for lots of snuggles as we watched Halloween movies, I decided that the only thing that could make this night even cozier would be the warmth of a fire.

While I had never actually lit a fireplace before, I was familiar with the steps: open the flue, light the match, throw it in the fireplace and turn on the gas. Easy enough, I thought to myself confidently as I opened the flue and felt the draft. I threw the match onto the logs and turned on the gas, but nothing happened. I lit a second match and threw it into the fireplace, but this time I was suddenly engulfed in a flash of flames. I remember hearing my daughter begin to scream as I rushed to turn off the gas, trying to prevent any further damage. I somehow remained calm as I dialed 911 and told them what had happened, all the while attempting very unsuccessfully to soothe my inconsolable 7 year old. It felt like only seconds before they arrived, the firemen moving quickly through the house, ensuring that everything was safe and there was no threat of additional fire while the paramedics examined the damage the fire had done to me. My daughter clung to my side, still sobbing and trembling with fear, while they took my vitals and looked over the parts of my body that been caught in the flash. Second degree burns covered the lower half of my face, neck and left arm and hand and several first degree burns over the rest of my body that had been exposed to the flames.

Concerned about potential smoke inhalation and the chance my lungs could close, the paramedics recommended that I go to the emergency room immediately, but I declined. There was no way I would leave my kids alone, and I could just go to the hospital once my parents arrived from their place in Northbrook to babysit. The firemen reassured me that they would stay and watch my daughter and son until my parents got there so that I could get the treatment that I needed before my condition worsened. I hesitantly agreed to leave as I wiped away my daughter’s tears once more and kissed her gently on the cheek. I asked her to be brave as I told her again that I would be ok and reminded her of how much I love her and her brothers. I watched as the firemen followed her into our living room to watch Hotel Transylvania 3 while the paramedics helped me onto the stretcher. Once outside, the enormity of the situation swept over me. Overcome with fear for what had just happened, guilt for leaving my children with strangers and even more guilt for inconveniencing the firefighters who had more important things to do than babysit, the tears began rolling down my cheeks. As we prepared to leave for the hospital, one of the firefighters ran into the ambulance carrying a get well note that they had helped my daughter make for me. It said “I love you Mommy and I hope you feel better soon”. He wanted to make sure that I had it before I left and that I knew that both kids were doing ok. It was just the reassurance I needed to know that my babies were in the best possible hands besides my own.

Once at the hospital, I was able to receive the treatment I needed right away, and what could have been 8 months worth of skin grafts and recovery ended up being a few weeks worth of bandages and over-the-counter ointments. 

Fast forward to last Friday when we visited the fire department and dropped off some cookies to try to properly show our appreciation. They welcomed us with open arms, took pictures with us and even let us check out the trucks, ambulance, axes and even the chainsaw. I can't begin to express how lucky we are to have these individuals working in our community, and my children and I will always be grateful for their kindness and for truly going above and beyond the call of duty. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. And a special thank you to Sophie Baron for being a part of our family and capturing this day that we will always remember on film for us. ”