'Her scars tell her story:' Young Syracuse burn survivor thriving with adoptive family

Emagine at Adoption Day (Courtesy: Alissa Evans)

A Syracuse fire victim and burn survivor is inspiring people across Central New York.

5-year-old Emagine, who now lives in Oswego, was severely burned when she was just 2-years-old. She suffered massive burns in a deadly fire on Pond Street in Syracuse in January of 2016. 13-year-old Zakiya Bell, a student at Grant Middle School, was killed. Emagine and another child survived.

"I just want people to love her and accept her for who she is," said her adoptive mother Alissa Evans. "I don't ever want to see her be ashamed of her scars. Her scars tell a story. They're part of who she is."

At first glance, Emagine looks just like any other kid, but take a closer look and you will quickly see how much this little girl has endured.

Emagine's painful story begins three years ago when she was severely burned in the house fire. The toddler suffered burns over more than 40 percent of her body. She spent six months at Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital. It was touch and go with doctors uncertain if she would survive.

"She was a trooper. She fought the whole time," said Tamara Roberts, the Burn Program Manager at the Clark Burn Center. "As sick as she was, she never gave up."

From the start, Emagine was a fighter, pushing through painful procedures including 16 surgeries so far. She was fighting with everything she had to live. Once she was out of the ICU, it took months of intensive physical therapy for Emagine to re-learn basic skills and start using what she later nicknamed her 'helping hand.'

"I've watched her struggle to learn how to zip up her coat, struggle to learn how to put her own coat on by herself and she didn't give up," Evans said.

By her side through all of it were complete strangers who would come to know and love her. Alissa Evans and her husband, Jonathan, wanted to be foster parents, specifically seeking out a medically-fragile child. Emagine would be the one to open their hearts in a way they never thought possible.

Months after the fire, the Evans were finally able to bring Emagine home to Oswego, introducing her to their four children and embracing the newest member of their family yet realizing the challenges ahead as they tended to Emagine's wounds.

"She said, 'Mom make sure you're very careful with my strawberry skin,' because it was more pink than the rest of her skin," Evans said. "You doubt yourself. You doubt that you have what it takes to do what needs to be done, but in the moment you just put your head down and do it."

Emagine never gave up on herself and they never doubted her resolve. She is their little fighter who is now getting a fresh start.

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