A caring father got a tattoo to mimic his young son’s burn scars in a bid to make him feel less alone and self-conscious.
Joel Thomas, from Festus, Missouri, decided to get the inking after his nine-year-old son, Landon, endured third-degree burns on his right leg when he fell into a bonfire.
Landon was treated with a skin graft which left him with noticeable scars that he feared he’d be bullied for when he returned to school.
32-year-old Thomas explained how self-conscious the scars made Landon, who would wear knee-high socks to cover them.
"He didn't want to show them off because he didn't want the questions and was terrified of getting picked on.
"It broke my heart. Nobody wants to see their kid get hurt like that and just to see him go through that whole ordeal tore me apart.”
However, Thomas added that after he got a tattoo to mimic the scars, his felt much less insecure.
"It's a tragic accident that happened to him but it's a happy ending for us because Landon loves the tattoo,” he said.
"Every once in a while he will put his leg next to mine and we compare them. It has brought us even closer together."
For Landon, who was just eight-years-old at the time of the accident, his father’s actions have been life-changing.
“My dad's tattoos make me proud and help me know that I am not alone,” he said.
“No matter what - he has my back."
In May 2016 Landon was at home toasting marshmallows with his dad’s fiancée, Melissa Kuhlmann, when he suddenly tripped and fell into the bonfire.
Kuhlmann, 27, called 911 before the paramedic rushed him to Mercy Hospital in St Louis, Missouri.
He was subsequently treated with a skin graft in which surgeons transplanted skin from the boy’s hip to his leg.
While he was only in hospital for a week, doctors said it’s likely Landon’s scars will be there for life.
Thomas had the idea of getting a tattoo replica of his son’s scars the evening before his son was due to have the skin graft surgery.
“We were talking about what would happen and the Smurf Movie had just come out so I joked that they were going to give him a blue leg.
"He started to freak out, so then I said they were going to give him a robot leg and he got scared they were going to cut it off.
"But then I told him he would have a skin graft and I told him, 'Whatever yours looks like I will get the same thing. I will have the same scars.'
"He thought it was a magnificent idea. He loved it."
Thomas got the tattoo in February 2017 in New York where he appeared on the US reality TV show Ink Masters.
"When we flew home the next day people were staring at my leg and I just walked through the airport with a smile.
"It gave me an idea of what Landon was going through but also a sense of pride.
"I want people to see it. It means they are looking at my leg instead of his.
"I am happy that I can walk around carrying the same scars as him. It means he doesn't feel alone."
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