Xavier burn survivor shares story

Photo courtesy of justinbeiberzone.com | Justin Bieber surprised Kilee Brookbank on The Doctors. She gained a social media following after the pop star posted a photo of the two on Instagram. Brookbank has published one book and is in the process of publishing another and will be doing a signing in the Clocktower Lounge in December.


Upon first glancing at sophomore Kilee Brookbank, one would probably only see her bright smile. It would be difficult to guess that 36 months ago, she just barely survived an explosion inside her home in Georgetown, Ohio, leaving 45 percent of her body burned—almost half of which was third degree.

She now looks indistinguishable from any other undergraduate student at Xavier, but the photo taken of her when she entered the hospital is jarring in contrast: little to no hair, swollen face and discolored skin.

“I couldn’t write, I couldn’t open doors, I couldn’t go to the bathroom on my own,” Brookbank said. She spent 38 days at Shriners Hospital for Children in Cincinnati to undergo a series of surgeries and skin grafts. “Everyday things that I do now, and I used to do before, I could not do at all.”

Her parents, as well as doctors and nurses, helped her with tasks such as these throughout the day.

Even after leaving the hospital, however, the road to recovery did not end.

She still required more operations and therapy, not to mention the fact that for a while they still had no home.

“I was staying in a hospital that didn’t feel like home, and when I returned ‘home’,” Brookbank said, raising her fingers in air quotes, “I knew that I wouldn’t actually be going home.”

Two months later, Brookbank found herself on The Doctors show. This is where, as she describes, she first began to establish a social media platform.

Justin Bieber came onto the show to surprise her and “he posted a picture on his Instagram, and that’s when people started getting interested.”

Many of Bieber’s followers began to follow Brookbank and would post comments about how inspiring she was. “And I didn’t really do anything—that was before I had started doing any type of advocacy or charity work.”

Brookbank believes her charity work grew after her TV show appearance. Her organization, the Kilee Gives Back Foundation, has raised more than $200,000 for Shriners Cincinnati since 2015.

Brookbank also has a signing scheduled for Dec. 7 in the Clocktower Lounge for her book Beautiful Scars: A Life Redefined.

She is particularly excited about this version because it is the revised edition of her book.
“(The old version) was kind of still me in high school, and it was still kind of kid-ish, so we wanted to revise it…because where I left off in the book, like the very last chapter, I was picking a college,” she said as she sat in Gallagher Student Center.

In May of 2018, Brookbank is also looking forward to publishing the children’s book Digger the Hero Dog, which is about the pet who saved Brookbank from the fire.
Through it all, however, Brookbank wants to thank the community, her friends, family and especially her mother for all of their support. Brookbank expressed the pride she feels for her mother for her role in both the recovery process and what has come after.

“Throughout this whole experience, my mom not only helped me, she’s pushed me,” Brookbank said.

Brookbank and her mother together wrote Beautiful Scars, and Brookbank is excited to share the story with Xavier at the signing in December.


By: Soondos Mulla-Ossman ~Copy Editor~

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