New Carlisle woman turns severe burns into tattoo ‘masterpiece’

Published: May. 23, 2023 at 6:41 PM EDT
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NEW CARLISLE, Ind. (WNDU) - After a long road to recovery, a New Carlisle woman is now speaking out after she was severely burned in a cooking accident.

***WARNING: Some of the images in the video attached above are a bit graphic.***

In 2019, Marissa Ellett was making alfredo on the stove when she smelled something strange. That’s when she quickly realized that her shirt was on fire.

Within seconds, she was engulfed in flames.

“Coming from the sides of my arms. . . So, the flames started here, and it crept up my shirt, and it just like was exploding off the sides of my arms,” Ellett said. “And now looking back I’m like, ‘Wow, I was like a real-life Phoenix.’ Like, it was insane.”

Despite pain and shock, Ellett was quick to act.

“I screamed out,” she recalled. “I said, ‘God, I don’t want to die and please not my face!’ And I was able to walk out to my back patio, and I took the hose and I was able to spray all the flames off.”

She was rushed to the emergency room in Niles and eventually transferred to Bronson’s Trauma Unit in Kalamazoo.

Ellett said fourth-degree burns went through all the layers of her skin. She said she had second-degree burns on her chest and third-degree burns on her arms and back.

“I was at the local hospital,” Ellett recalled. “The pain had gotten so out of control that I was screaming out, ‘Why am I alive? I want to die!’”

Despite nonstop pain, she told herself that she would get through this, and kept fighting and hanging on to hope.

Ellett said she remembers thinking that something good would come out of this and eventually started the recovery process. She said there are multiple layers of battles you have to fight to have a successful life again, and that recovery is hard.

“A burn injury is very complex,” Ellett said. “So, you have your first initial injury, the burn. And the fire itself, little did I know at the time that was one of the least painful parts of a burn survivors’ recovery, is the actual event.

“When I think about my recovery, I don’t think about the recovery so much,” she added. “I think about all of the important interventions that had to take place to get me to that point.”

Ellett had to have a skin debridement procedure. She also had skin grafting surgery, where doctors took skin from her knee area up to her stomach to patch areas that were deeply wounded.

After spending months in a hospital, she eventually returned home and went back to work in September of 2020.

Ellett is a special education teacher and said she was eager to see her students again, but the recovery process and healing continued.

“You know, there are days that I still struggle,” she said. “PTSD just doesn’t go away, but now I have the skills and the mindset that I know I’m safe. I know I’m fine, and you know, it’s just like anything in life. Everyone goes through a time, it’s just how you handle it and how you respond.”

In 2021, she covered the burn with a tattoo.

“Had some insomnia and couldn’t sleep and obviously a lot of pain, and I’d be laying out there with my arms like this and said, ‘You know what, mom? When I beat this, when I recover, I’m going to get this whole thing tattooed, and I’m going to get hot pink peonies because I love peonies, and peonies have been big in our family for generations,” Ellett recalled.

(Marissa Ellett)

Ellett said she had a choice: she could be upset every time she looked at her wounds, or getting a tattoo could be a way to create something beautiful out of something terrible and painful.

Her stepkids drew some of the designs and she had a phoenix incorporated into what she calls a “masterpiece.”

“I wanted to do something different to symbolize my survival, and that was to create something out of a bad situation,” Ellett said. “This tattoo helped take my life back and gave me confidence to wear what I want to wear without having to explain my story unless I want to.”

Ellett also plans to start a non-profit to help other burn victims one day.

“And take my newfound confidence, and everything that I learned, and give that back to somebody else so they can feel good about themselves again,” she said.

Ellett leaves you with this message:

“No matter what kind of pain you are going through, you can always turn your pain into power. You have the ability to make a hard situation better. You can do it.”

Ellett said one good thing that came from this accident is that she met her husband, Brad. She said Brad reached out to her during her recovery and from there, the rest is history.

(Marissa Ellett)

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