Some people grow up knowing they want to work in health care, while others figure it out later on in life. For Sharp employee Michael Goodrich, the realization came after he suffered a burn injury 14 years ago. The accident changed his life forever, but also led him to help others through his work at Sharp and in the community.
In the summer of 2005, Goodrich was working as a musician and a river guide in a small town in Idaho. After a long day of tours and music gigs, he fell asleep next to a fire pit. As he inched closer to the 5-foot deep pit for warmth, he accidentally fell in. He suffered second- and third-degree burns on over 45 percent of his body.
After a three-month hospital stay and a year of outpatient therapy, he moved to San Diego and continued his healing journey.
"I started trying to surf again, trying to play music again. I was determined to get back to a physical state where I could take care of myself," he says.
Healing through community
Although he was starting to heal physically through rehabilitation, it was harder for him to heal emotionally.
"I had a lot of guilt because of my accident and I wasn't receptive to the idea that I deserved to heal," says Goodrich.
Then things changed five years ago when he decided to volunteer for the Burn Institute, helping out with their support group for burn survivors and their families.
Goodrich liked being part of a community where he could hear others' stories and help people with what they were going through.
"I go there hoping that I'll meet someone new and help them. And I end up walking away with something even better — something new that someone else taught me. I learn new ways of thinking from other survivors that I hadn't considered before."
A new outlook on an old passion
Goodrich's healing journey also involved learning to play guitar again. Music was always a large part of his life, but his burn injury resulted in amputations on all of his fingers on his guitar strumming hand. "It was hard for me to get back to playing guitar, and being a musician was one of the things I loved most about life. It's what I lived for."
Trying to strum the guitar became painful for Goodrich. He could not hold a guitar pick due to the skin grafts that resulted from the skin transplant on his fingers.
"My fingertips have nerve endings right under the skin and it would feel like getting hit with a hammer when I'd strum wrong. I would try and fail, get frustrated and quit for long periods of time."
His frustration prevented him from playing for a full two years until he decided to try again. He started teaching guitar to beginners, which helped him relearn and practice the basics.
"Once I got a few songs down again, both guitar and singing, I started working on my own songs again, and started feeling better about the sounds I was hearing. I've got about 10 original songs and almost 45 cover songs I do now, mostly country and classic rock. To this day I cannot hold onto a pick very well, so I strum with my fingertips."
Goodrich was not only able to get back into music, but he decided to share it with others. He started volunteering at a Burn Institute camp for burn survivors ages 8 to 17.
"One of the greatest things that I get to bring to camp is my music. Having lost that for so many years, it means a lot to bring it to camp and show the kids that they can do whatever they want if they put their mind to it."
Applying healing lessons to life and work
That passion for helping others was one of the reasons Goodrich started working at Sharp.
"As someone who was a patient for so long, I was given so much from the doctors and nurses who helped me heal. So giving back to health care in some way was very important to me."
Goodrich works at Sharp's Technical Assistance Center (TAC), where he helps employees fix issues with their computers, printers and other devices. He finds that the patience he learned while healing allows him to better assist people at work.
"My healing journey has taught me that everything in life takes work, more work and a ton of patience. Not everything comes right away. Many times I don't have the answer off the top of my head and have to search it out. In those times I have to show patience on the outside, while quite possibly being extremely stressed out in my head."
The lead on his team, Caitlin Cummings, says she is happy to have someone like him in her department.
"Michael is a real asset to us at TAC and to the community. We're really proud to have him on our team," she says.