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Former burn patient donates artwork to USAISR Burn Center

By Dr. Steven Galvan | U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Public Affairs | Feb. 12, 2021


A burn patient and local artist showed her appreciation for the care she received at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston by donating an art piece she created.

Michelle Delgado, also known as “Shelly VibesArt,” is a 24-year-old local artist whose 23-by-28-inch loose canvas creation features a combination of acrylic-painted flames and a collage of compression gloves treated with resin.

The gloves are the ones she wore during her recovery to reduce swelling and compress scarring. Delgado framed the art and hung it on a piece of scavenged wood.

“I wanted to give this painting to the burn center staff as a token of my gratitude,” Delgado said. “I am very thankful for the help I received from the staff. Without them, I wouldn’t know how to properly care for my burns, something I will have to do for the rest of my life.”

Delgado burned her hands early one morning in August 2020 while working in her studio. She received second-degree burns from a mishap that took place while she was pouring scented oil into a candle.

“I was unaware the candle oil had alcohol in it,” she said. “The extremely hot liquid splashed on the top of my hands and gave me second-degree burns.”

After a long evaluation at a local hospital, Delgado was referred to the USAISR Burn Center for definitive care.

“To make a long story short, the traumatizing experience of injuring my hands, these beautiful tools I've been given that impacts my everyday life and my career as an artist, compelled me so much to create a painting-interactive piece that plays an homage to the experience I went through,” Delgado added.

Col. (Dr.) Mark Stackle, USAISR Commander, and Dr. Leopoldo “Lee” Cancio, Burn Center Director, accepted the gift during a small ceremony at the burn center.

“It is a tremendous privilege for us to have you, an artist of your caliber, to think of us and to come back and give back,” Stackle said. “It’s good for the entire burn center staff to see how far you’ve come and this opportunity means a lot to our entire organization.”

Cancio also expressed gratitude for the artwork and pointed out that it was, in many ways, symbolic of Delgado’s transformation.

“What it means to me is that as clinicians, we’re involved in transformation. When we see patients, oftentimes they come to us at a low point, a difficult point after a significant injury, potentially a life-altering injury and our job is to get them better,” Cancio said.

“But we’re only part of the equation. The other part is the patient, family and friends, and what the patient, family and friends bring to this is transformation,” he added. “To me, the art symbolizes transformation: it means something about taking an injury and overcoming it. To me, this means getting beyond your injury to something new, and in this case something beautiful.”

“I am forever grateful for the care that I received by the staff at the burn center,” Delgado said. “My hands are a gift, they are my tools. Thanks to the staff, I can properly care for my hands and thankfully, my burns are healing nicely and I have been back in the studio working every day.”