CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Gabe Alvarado's life changed forever back in 2009 when an explosion at a Corpus Christi refinery left him with severe burns and other injuries.
Doctors kept him in a coma for 90 days, and since the blast, he's required more than 70 surgeries.
But now his story is the inspiration for a cartoon called "My Life is Worth Living," which addresses the mental-health struggles from which children and teenagers can suffer.
The storyline for cartoon character Danny is that he was badly burned in a house fire and lost his lower left arm — just like Alvarado did.
The four-part series begins with Danny returning to school and facing ridicule and rejection because of his discolored skin and the hook he has in place of his missing hand.
Alvarado was well past his high school years when the explosion happened, but he says he still felt rejection because of his disfigurement, which is why he has some advice.
“When you see someone that looks different, instead of gawking or something — hey — smile," he said. "A smile goes a long way.”
Wonder Media created Danny and four other characters who experience different mental-illness triggers. Owner Terry Thoren used to be the CEO for the company that created hit cartoons 'Rugrats' and 'The Simpsons'.
His character, inspired by Alvarado, learns to better handle his "new normal" through therapy and other means.
“Danny, over time — and by connecting with the power and the strength of his family and his friends — gets to the point where Gabe is now," Thoren said.
All five storylines will be able to be viewed for free on YouTube.
They're offered in English right now, but come January, Thoren says they'll also be available in Portuguese, Spanish, Mandarin, and Japanese.
“Any teenager who’s suffering from challenges from mental health, we want them to be able to get it for free,” he said.
And if they benefit from that free help, it will be a silver lining to Alvarado's personal tragedy.
"I just wanted to do something good for the community and continue doing it," Alvarado said. "And with the love and support of friends and family and the community we can keep this series going."