By Terrin Parker:

The most inspirational and influential people among us often come from the darkest, cruelest places in this world. Places that none of us want to believe exist. Places that cause us to question humanity, and the hope that good will ultimately trump evil. These people rise from the ashes to show us that there is reason to live, and purpose to life. The person I’m going to tell you about did just that. Literally.

It was 1983, and six year old David Rothenberg was in a hotel room near Disneyland with his father, Charles. His parents were in the process of a custody dispute and his father had decided that if he couldn’t have David, no one could. Charles kidnapped David and brought him to California. As David slept, his father poured kerosene all over his sons body, and lit a match.

By the time the paramedics arrived, David had sustained severe burns over 90% of his body and was not expected to live. His mother, Marie, was notified and flew from New York to California, where David was hospitalized. She walked into the room to see her son lying there in bed, covered in bandages from head to toe. His eyes were bulging out of singed skin and his lips were gone.

Pic 1In an article published in People Magazine, Marie wrote, “I had never seen anybody suffering to that extent. I couldn’t imagine a human body being able to repair itself from so critical a condition.” To take the burned tissue off, the doctors put David in a whirlpool containing a bleach solution and brushed off the irreparable skin. In the beginning they used pigskin and cadaver skin to cover him temporarily by stapling it to him, then when he was ready for the real skin, the doctors surgically removed skin from the few areas on his body not burned and laid it on him in mesh grafts.

Against all odds, David survived, though survival meant that he would continue to have chronic pain throughout his life. David legally changed his name to Dave Dave, to free himself of his father’s name and criminal legacy, and become his own person, leaving behind any familial connection he had to the man who had tried to take his life.

Dave Dave did have a person come into his life that became somewhat of a father figure to him, and that person was Michael Jackson. Hearing of the horrific circumstances surrounding Dave’s accident, Michael reached out to him and they became lifelong friends. Dave appeared on Larry King Live for an interview on the day of Michael Jackson’s funeral, and talked about their connection and friendship over the years.

Another person of influence in Dave’s life is Dr. Ward Wagner of Dixie Chiropractic. In dealing with the chronic pain that he faces on a day-to-day basis, Dave has tried several methods of relief, and countless clinics and specialists. It wasn’t until he was introduced to Dr. Wagner and Calmare Therapy last October that Dave finally found a reprieve from the pain.

Read the rest of Dave Dave’s story next week.