Sat, Dec 30, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Explosion survivor lives on to help others

By Lin Hui-chin, Weng Lu-huang and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Huang Po-wei, 25, who survived the 2015 ‘Color Play Asia’ dust explosion at Formosa Fun Coast water park in New Taipei City, is pictured at Hehuanshan’s peak in Nantou County on July 8.

Photo courtesy of Huang Po-wei

Huang Po-wei (黃博煒), a 25-year-old survivor of the 2015 dust explosion incident in New Taipei City, says his raison d’etre is to bring positive thoughts to other victims of the incident.

At the Color Play Asia event on June 27, 2015, colored dust at a water park caught fire, sparking an explosion that left 508 injured and 15 dead.

Huang received third-degree burns over 95 percent of his body, leaving him in critical condition.

At the hospital, his parents had asked him: “Should we abandon emergency care or should we agree to amputation with less than 10 percent chance of survival?”

Huang said he had been unable to make a sound, despite the roiling disbelief tearing him up inside as he was kept alive via intubation.

He said the thought that was running through his head was: “My life is just about to begin, why should I leave it behind?”

After high school, Huang said he had worked part-time jobs, including handing out flyers and working at beverage shops, to help pay for his own tuition and expenses.

He completed college and obtained more than 10 certificates related to computer technology and circuitry, before landing an internship at a tech company, but said he still had many things to do.

“I was not afraid of working hard; I was afraid of losing the opportunity to work hard,” Huang said.

The surgery was successful. Huang described the feeling of drinking his first cup of water a month after the surgery to be “absolutely divine, like being alive again,” but he had to wait another month to eat normally again.

What people usually take for granted now became a chore, Huang said.

Over seven months of hospitalization and physical therapy, Huang said he had to learn to become accustomed to failure.

“Failure was quite literally a constant in life,” Huang said.

However, it is only through experiencing failure that a person can accomplish more, he said.

Huang used his experience of learning how to operate an electric wheelchair as an example, saying that since he began using the chair in September last year, he is now self-sufficient when traveling or purchasing groceries.

Huang said he wants to keep bowling and hiking, adding: “It is not impossible, it just takes time.”

It took more than 40 or 50 tries before he was able to even touch one of the pins with a bowling ball, Huang said.

He had to train three to four months before he achieved his dream of climbing to the peak of Hehuanshan (合歡山), an act he had formerly thought to be impossible.

The past two years had not all been cheerful and rosy, Huang said, adding that many times he saw comments online saying that he should not “be a burden to his parents.”

One time, a woman demanded that he “move out of the way, you will scare the children,” when he went out to purchase some snacks from a street vendor, he said.

However, Huang said that he knew that for every bigoted comment or discriminatory look, there were more people who would help and encourage him.

While his outward optimism was “courage out of necessity,” Huang said that “it was a difficult path, but not as difficult as imagined.”

Wishing to share his experiences with other victims of the incident and to let the public and his doctors know that their efforts have not been in vain, Huang decided to publish a memoir.

“Those with a will never compromise,” Huang said, adding that he hopes his experiences detailed in Alive (但我想活) would give courage to other victims.

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