“I’ve had excellent care at VCU. All the surgeries I’ve had from day one have gotten the results we were hoping for.”

Tony Carr’s passion for flying developed when he was just a small boy taking trips with his parents.

“I loved going on trips. I got a kick out of going to the airport — I got a rush out of flying,” Carr said.

He loved it so much that he earned his pilot’s license when he was just 16. He went on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in aviation from Oklahoma State University. After working as a flight instructor, Carr relocated with his wife, Sharon, to Richmond, Va., where he worked with a cargo/charter company. That was in mid-February 2011.

It was a Monday evening, April 11, 2011, when Carr’s life and passion would be changed forever. Just after takeoff, the twin-engine aircraft he was piloting came crashing down, exploding immediately into a ball of fire on a taxiway at Richmond International Airport. EMS crews arrived at the site almost immediately and transported Carr to the VCU Medical Center.

“I had extensive burns on approximately 60 percent of my body,” Carr said. “There were second-, third- and fourth-degree burns.” He also sustained multiple fractures on his face, ribs and pelvis.

“When Mr. Carr arrived in the burn center, he was the sickest patient in the hospital,” said Michael Feldman, M.D., medical director for the Evans-Haynes Burn Center at the VCU Medical Center and assistant professor in the Department of Surgery. “I think about this every time I see him in the clinic.”

Carr stayed in the hospital for more than two months before transferring to a rehabilitation facility. To date, he’s undergone 24 surgeries ranging from skin grafts to reconstruction.

“I’ve had surgeries to reconstruct my nose, which was pretty well destroyed. They’ve also removed scar tissue from places such as my elbow. Scar tissue was limiting my range of motion, and since the surgery, I’ve had better range and functionality,” Carr said.

All of Carr’s surgeries took place at the VCU Medical Center.

“Dr. Feldman has been there every step of the way,” Carr said. “I have about four or five surgeries to go, and I’ll have those at VCU as well. I’ve had excellent care at VCU. All the surgeries I’ve had from day one have gotten the results we were hoping for. My wife and I have good relationships with all the doctors and nurses at VCU.”

In fall 2011, just six months after the accident, Carr said he hit his lowest point, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and the painful road of rehabilitation. He began writing poetry as a way to cope with the adversity. He framed two of his poems and donated them to the Evans-Haynes Burn Center staff.

“I wanted to thank them for the big role they’ve played in my recovery,” Carr said. “And I wanted to have the poems hanging in the burn center to inspire other patients and provide comfort to those going through some level of trauma. I want to give them hope and show them that they can go through a terrible situation and overcome.”

Carr admits the accident has affected how he views flying, but he still wants to remain in the aviation industry. He’s pursuing a career as a flight dispatcher and hopes to begin this new chapter after his last surgery.

“This is a great fit for me. It still allows me to do something I’m knowledgeable in with a level of comfort, safety and security,” he said. “It’s been really tough, but I’ve been able to prevail.”