Burn victim finds healing through social media trend

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Val Jones, a Grand Rapids native living in the Detroit area, promised his friends he would never start using the popular social media app TikTok. He recently broke that promise after going through what he described as the worst pain of his life.

In August, Jones, who never cooks, decided to get in kitchen and give it a try and ended up with a grease fire.

“I couldn’t find the fire extinguisher, so I tried to carry the pan outside. As I was doing that, I fell down the stairs and it just went everywhere,” Jones explained.

With burns over 19% of his body, Jones ended up at Spectrum Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids for more than 40 days. Despite his boredom and intense pain, he kept a smile on his face and entertained the medical staff with his bubbly personality and flare for the dramatic.

Jennifer Erhardt cared for Jones for two weeks during his stay and described him as one-of-a-kind.

“Some of the burns were so severe that I think those nerve endings just get completely fried off and then the pain is just constant. But he would still laugh and call me in to make stupid jokes,” Erhardt said.

She and the other nurses enjoyed his antics so much they encouraged him to record it and share the videos on social media where they immediately gained traction and reaction.

Val is home from the hospital now, saying he’s learned his lesson in the kitchen.

“I will not be cooking anymore. I plan on just going out to lunch and dinner. I’m good with the kitchen,” Jones said.

Another lesson he’s learned is what a difference a positive attitude can make, not only for his own recovery but for strangers.

“I’ve been getting all these messages from people all over. What’s going on out there in the world, it’s a lot. They tell me every day that I’ve inspired them, and that’s what makes me happy,” he said.

As Jones tells his friends, “happiness is a choice,” and despite the many challenges out there, he hopes everyone will find a way to keep going and keep smiling.

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