Madelyn Carter | Staff Writer
An attempt to finish off fireworks from New Year’s went awry as heat, fear, and confusion filled the mind of freshman Blake
Powell three weeks ago. With third degree burns on his limbs and growing in eyebrows to prove it, Powell experienced more pain then most students at Johnson have encountered.
“So I was carrying gunpowder,” Powell said, “and I started pouring it over fireworks we had already used but there was hot ember still inside, so the fire went up and hit the kin in my hand so it just blew up in gulfs or fire.”
Powell used to make his own rockets and fireworks, so he handled the fireworks alone with his best friend Duncan Ploetz.
“I saw a big ball of fire come out of the gunpowder jar and I saw him backing out of it,” Ploetz said. “I didn’t know if he was okay or not because he didn’t seem injured at first so I just needed to check him out.”
The two freshman boys reacted quickly to the trauma the best that they could.
“The first thing I thought was ‘I need water!’” Powell confessed. “Right when it happened I stripped down as fast as I could and Duncan started spraying me down with a hose, then I jumped over the fence and hopped into my pool.”
At first, the boys didn’t think the damage was too bad.
“I didn’t know how serious it was,” Powell said. “Nothing was wrong with my face at first, except my eyebrows were missing.”
With the fear of being grounded in the back of his mind, Powell planned to hide what had happened.
“I went inside after I got out of the pool and my mom was still in the kitchen,” Powell explains. “I told Duncan, ‘Be quiet, I don’t want my mom to find out’, then I hopped in my shower and covered myself in wet towels.”
To his surprise, the incident turned fatal quickly as Powell’s injuries began to sting.
“The skin started peeling off of his legs and blotches were missing,” Ploetz expressed. “When he started experiencing a lot of pain I was like, ‘Ok let’s tell your mom’ and we did.”
Powell had to go through surgery to tend to his wounds and was in the hospital for 2 days.
“At first it was really painful,” Powell rendered. “But then I was on morphine in the hospital for the first two days so I didn’t feel a thing. I was actually really happy after surgery.”
His happiness faded after these two days as he was moved to a calmer drug – Vicodin.
“It wasn’t even close to as strong,” Powell stated. “So it was the most painful thing, walking and moving. It was really temperature sensitive so I had to walk slowly so the wind wouldn’t blow against [my skin].”
Powell is known by his friends and family as being a positive and always hopeful.
“Everyday was a huge improvement from the day before. The swelling would go down and I would be able to move my joints. And I’m here now! So that’s great.”
The news of Blake’s accident was a shock to friends and students at Johnson.
“When I heard about what happened to Blake, I was freaking out,” freshman Jenna Lopez said. “Then I knew that he didn’t need people sitting there feeling bad for him and stuff so I stayed strong and helped his get through it and all.”
The days where Powell had to stay restrained to his home were difficult for him, but his friends were quick to support him.
“I’d come visit him,” Ploetz said. “Just hang out with him cause he can’t really go outside or do anything. I’d text him too and ask him how he’s doing.”
“I told him what he missed at school,” Lopez stated. “And about all the people telling me to tell him they were praying for him. And gave him candy of course!”
Blake felt really encouraged by the help of his friends and family through his difficult time, but also by strangers who just wanted to lend words of comfort.
“People I didn’t even know were posting on my Facebook wall saying ‘I don’t know you but I’m praying for you and hope you get better!’” Powell confessed. “And that made me feel really good.”
Powell now wears a protective sleeve and glove on his left arm and hand as well as coverings for his legs. His doctors told him he has to keep the protections on for another year or two.
“I don’t have any scarring in my face” Powell said. “Hopefully my legs won’t scar too bad so I won’t be thinking about it when I look down.”
Before the incident Powell was one of the best wrestlers on the Johnson team, dominating his 103 lb weight class with a 16-6 record.
“[The accident] took me out of the district tournament for wrestling. Luckily I lettered before that so I get my letter jacket,” Powell said with a laugh. “Hopefully I can wrestle next year, but the doctors aren’t sure.”
Powell returned to the halls of Johnson last week to come back with a positive attitude and smile on his face.
“These past two weeks have been rough,” Lopez said. “But he’s made it through very well and he’s gonna be fine in the end.”