Dana Vulin credits her family for helping her through the darkest hours.
After Dana Vulin was set alight in a hideous, unprovoked attack, the biggest fight of her life began: this one was for survival. More battles followed – to regain her identity and to see justice served – and throughout her ordeals Dana continually proved her spirit and sheer determination could not be destroyed. Worth Fighting For is this truly remarkable woman’s story of recovery, strength and triumph in the face of unspeakable horror.
With her arms and hands severely disfigured in the blaze, during the initial weeks and months in hospital Dana was reliant on family and nursing staff for everyday tasks we take for granted. In the passage below she pays tribute to her mother and sisters for their unyielding love and support, for helping her maintain her dignity, and for offering the rare gift of laughter.
Because Mum worked in another part of the hospital she had a security pass that let her into the burns ward, so she was able to come and see me outside of regular visiting hours, thank God. If it wasn’t for her turning up at all hours of the day and night to help me I wouldn’t have made it through the first few months. One time she turned up at 5 a.m. and found me crying in my bed. I’d needed to go to the toilet all night, but the buzzer to summon the nurse was out of my reach. All I could do was lie in the dark in pain and hope that somebody came by. Nobody did.
I was so helpless, calling out desperately, but nobody could hear me with my broken voice too weak to penetrate the air-sealed room. Help didn’t come for hours, until Mum came in and called a nurse for me.
The nurses and ward staff did their best, but they were only human. My family, on the other hand, were superhuman. From the very first days, my mum and sisters had to become my full-time caregivers. Svet, especially, did everything for me. She gave up her whole life pretty much, just to look after me, and didn’t ask anything in return.
Well, except for one thing: she asked me to fight and never give up. In return, she promised she would never stop helping me – and she never has.
Svet’s still my big sister, though, and just because I was in the hospital didn’t mean she would stop teasing me. She used to mess with my hair. It all burnt off in the fire, and it went through this stage where it regrew as a really unflattering mullet. I begged Svet to fix it for me. So she was like, ‘Sure, Dana. I’ll make you real pretty,’ and went and got her hairdressing gear. And then she went in and really styled that mullet up until I was full MacGyver!
When it finally grew long enough that she could do something more with it, she offered to style me up properly. She got a brush and a hairdryer and started fussing with my hair. It was a really big moment for us – full of sisterly love, with us bonding while she fussed with my locks. I was eternally grateful for her helping me regain my dignity and femininity.
So she was doing my hair like a proper hairdresser, chatting away, and then, out of nowhere, she started reminiscing about our childhood, about the toys that were in fashion when we were kids. Cabbage Patch Kids, Tamagotchis, those little Troll Dolls with the big hair that were big in the ’90s. She kept talking about the trolls and I couldn’t figure out why – until she finished doing my hair and brought the mirror over.
She’d full-on sabotaged me! She’d blow-dried my hair up to look exactly like a Troll Doll. I was furious, but she was just pissing herself laughing. I roared at her, waving my little T-rex arms in her direction, until finally I started laughing too. She could always make me laugh, no matter what, which is exactly what I needed at that point.