By Chad Ruiz
Annie Kirschenbaum Circulates Message of Love and Appreciation
Meeting Annie Kirschenbaum is a life-changing experience. Immediately, she swoons you with her southern drawl, her devout appreciation and her fervent empathy. And she swears she’s the same Annie as before her accident.
Kirschenbaum’s workplace tragedy made local headlines 10 years ago.
“I’ll tell you what I know. It was just a natural Friday. I worked in a warehouse in Hammond where I picked products and filled orders for beauty products. I just happened to be working and my ponytail got caught in a piece of equipment,” Kirschenbaum said. Then, the unimaginable happened. In an instant, the machinery ripped Kirschenbaum’s scalp clean off her skull, also taking with it most of her right ear.
“I didn’t actually know I lost what I lost. I felt some burning but I walked around the corner and saw a few people,” she said. The events that followed remain a blur for Kirschenbaum. Medics rushed her to the local hospital where surgeons worked for hours reattaching her scalp, to no avail. After 10 days in intensive care, four major surgeries and several weeks in the hospital, she returned home—her identity, her life in shambles.
“My Heavenly Father was with me so much and I was using my prayers. This isn’t just about me. The moment that my accident happened, this was about everybody else because I was OK. If my Heavenly Father wanted me, I was ready.”
Surgeons eventually used skin grafts from other parts of her body to cover her head—brow line to neckline. As a result of the nerve damage, Kirschenbaum “feels everything” in her head. “Let’s say when it storms, I can feel the thunder and the lightning through my head. Every sip of drink, I get the ice cream freeze. And with the hot drinks, the same thing.”
Today, Kirschenbaum celebrates her road to recovery thanking caregivers like Dr. Kamran Khoobehi and Debbie Guastella of The Guastella Institute of Permanent and Corrective Cosmetics who pieced her back together. “It completed me,”
Kirschenbaum said after receiving her “new” eyebrows. Sadly, her hair will never regrow but instead, Kirschenbaum sports colorful bandanas to protect her sensitive head.
Getting to know Kirschenbaum is like walking into a cloud of love. She cares more for others than her own self. Even looking back on the day which changed her life, Kirschenbaum regrets the misfortune her coworkers and employer endured.
Since then, she started a safety awareness movement spreading her message to others by sponsoring local youth sports teams. Eventually, she hopes to provide safety lectures to businesses. She already has the first question planned for attendees, “Do you know where your ponytail goes?”
“I don’t necessarily know how my mind up there works but I love people. I have a lot of angels in my life. I live for everyday and I live for the moment. Why worry about tomorrow if you don’t get the rest of today?”
There’s no defeat in Kirschenbaum. Not under her vibrant bandana, not in her past regrets; when peering beneath her scars you find endless appreciation, inspiration and love.