What do you want to do when you grow up?
It’s a question something nearly every child has been asked. They tend to dream big. Some want to put out fires or teach classes. Some want to write novels. Some even plan to fly to the moon and back one day.
And sure, lots of them want to be physicians. Healing sick people or caring for injured animals is a pretty common early career idea among children. But how many kids aspire to be surgeons and – by the time preschool rolls around – have already chosen their specialty?
Ariel Garrett did.
After becoming a burn victim at the hands of abusive foster parents, Ariel decided to make lives brighter for others like herself, and by toddlerhood she had charted her future with a goal of helping improving skin-grafting surgery for future burn victims.
“I’ve always wanted to be a surgeon,” Ariel says. “When I was 3, I was placed in a very unsafe foster home. As a punishment, they held both my hands as well as my foot under hot water and I had to have a skin graft.”
Ariel’s scalding injuries went untreated for two days, according to her adoptive mother Harmony Mitchell. “She had second and third degree burns on her hands and feet,” says Mitchell. “When I met her, she was just a little girl I knew needed help. She came to my home when she was hurt and looking for love.”
Fast-forward 12 years to February 2018, when Ariel, now a 15-year-old Huron High School sophomore, entered a district-wide essay competition in honor of Black History Month.
READ ARIEL’S WINNING ESSAY: https://weloveannarbor.com/2018/03/01/ann-arbors-black-history-month-essay-competition-first-place/
The first annual contest, sponsored by the Black Parents and Students Support Group, came with a $500 grand prize. With her entry, “The Eye-Opening Patricia Bath,” detailing the life and accomplishments of the African-American ophthalmologist and inventor, Ariel took that handful of hundreds home with her.
Learning about Bath’s professional and personal life has been a lesson in inspiration.
“I want to create a better technique in skin grafting to prevent and reverse keloids and discoloration,” she wrote in her winning story.
“As a burn victim, she is often inundated with questions about her hand,” says Mitchell. She wants to be able to help others not get those questions at all. I told her if there is something that you think should be made better, you be difference.”
And Ariel hopes to do just that – preferably at one of the three colleges that interest her most: Hampton University, Xavier University of Louisiana or Johns Hopkins University.
Mitchell is proud of the way her daughter turned a nightmare into a dream.
“Her spirit makes you realize how precious life is and how wonderful it can be if you smile. Even through the toughest times.”