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It’s a sound Prince will never forget: the “whoosh” that came from everywhere around him. The sound came first, smoke soon filled his apartment, and then came the searing heat.

It was a devastating house fire. Prince's roommate Pawel managed to flee before realizing Prince was still inside. Pawel ran back into the blaze in search of his childhood friend. He eventually found him at the top of the stairs, stuck on a flaming beam.

Pawel mustered the strength and courage to get them both to safety. But their ordeal was only beginning.

Photo of Prince sitting
Prince Amponsah: “Sharing my story helps me. That’s why I do it. It gives people pause when I’m positive.” (Photograph by Tim Fraser)

The way forward

Prince sustained serious burns to more than two thirds of his body. First responders knew immediately Prince's best chance for survival would be at Sunnybrook's Ross Tilley Burn Centre, the largest and most advanced adult burn centre in Canada.

Saving lives is the burn team's most pressing priority. But quality of life must also be restored, and that is where one of Canada's top rehabilitation centres comes into play. St. John's Rehab at Sunnybook offers personalized therapies for the most complex injuries and illnesses.

The combination made all the difference for Prince, who arrived at Sunnybrook unconscious and was soon placed into a medically induced coma. His family made the gut-wrenching decision to amputate both his arms, to his elbow on the left and shoulder on the right.

Extensive skin grafts helped reconstruct Prince’s arms, torso, cheek, lips and scalp. It’s painstaking, delicate work only a handful of people on earth can do in cases as severe as Prince’s.

Prince and Dr. Amanda Mayo
Prince and St. John’s Rehab physiatrist Dr. Amanda Mayo. (Photograph by Doug Nicholson)

Rebuilding a life

Prince endured a gauntlet of more than 40 surgeries over the ensuing nine months, followed by a year and a half of intensive rehabilitation. He was equipped with a prosthesis he says changed his life, but the secret to his recovery has been his own attitude, says physiatrist and amputee specialist Dr. Amanda Mayo.

“The people around me are so strong. It gives me no excuse to give up,” Prince says.

An actor by profession, Prince recently returned to his thespian roots, finishing a run in a Toronto play. His story is now inspiring others.

"It gives people pause when I’m positive," says Prince. "I would just hope that whatever others are going through, that they see me and know that they can get through it.”

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