“It’s crazy how much can change in 10 seconds. That’s how long I was on fire when an oven I was working on exploded…
I was cooking eggs. 12 p.m. rush, when suddenly an explosion blasted from the back of the stove. It was the absence of sound as air was quickly sucked away and consumed by the erupting flames that (from what I heard later on) pushed past the window of our food runners station. I heard a voice screaming in agony.
I opened my eyes. My hands instinctually had covered my face in an attempt to protect it. I saw flames through my fingers. I still heard the screaming. I was the one screaming. I was on fire. Immediately, the thought went into my head ‘Stop, drop and roll. This will put the flames out.’ I fell down. I rolled around as fast I could on the food littered floor, skin hanging off my arms as I helped myself up. I was badly hurt. Golf-ball sized blisters had already formed on my wrists and the skin on my arms and face – brown or gone from where it had just been. I ran to the back of the restaurant, grabbed a jug of milk and poured it over my body. Customers flooded out the front doors of the restaurant.
My co-workers found me in the back. I didn’t say a word. I feared that if I moved my mouth, my lips might fall off from my face. I was scared and the pain was climbing over my body.They sat me down in a chair out front, as the sound of ambulances and fire trucks droned in the distance. Daggers running down my arms. No skin to stretch to make movement, just tearing. Little blood. People in the distance. Standing. Watching. Huddling. Everyone’s attention on me, just waiting for the next thing to happen, as I was too. I tried to be as still as I could, my arms held out in front of me like a burnt scarecrow.
The start of a spiritual battle: sporadic thoughts of fear. Was I going to look like monster, a melted candle, ugly and alone? A dark voice told me I would end my life at the end of all of this if that were so…pain….then a man came up to me and asked if he could say a prayer over me. Who was this guy? I felt a slight emotion of wanting to shun God. Where had my protector been 5 minutes ago? But a stronger emotion overcame… I needed help. He put his hand on my shoulder, muttered a prayer and then disappeared into the crowd. It was a small gesture, but the touch and human interaction meant the world to me in that moment… When the ambulance arrived, I walked up it’s side staircase. My co-worker whom had been working next to me in the kitchen, was in the back on a stretcher, screaming in pain. I sat with no words to speak. The dialogue was happening within.
The pain multiplied without ease over my body and I wondered if this would ever end? An EMT asked me my name over and over again and I wanted to just write it for him on my jeans in blood. I became desperate in my mind. With no reservation, I pleaded to Jesus. ‘Jesus help me!’.'Jesus help me!’.'Jesus, please help me!’ 'God help me!’.’God save me!’.’Oh God please help me!’
I felt the pain start to change as I kept saying that name. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. My mind mutterings seemed to change the code my brain was receiving from my damaged nerves. They felt intercepted. I closed and kept calling that name.
We were helicoptered to Grady hospital in ATL and I was in the hospital for 11 days. My recovery was a journey that I could never have gotten through without my family, friends, and support from people I had never met, sending me their prayers and love. It was truly amazing how many people reached out to me; money and cards pouring through the mail.
These days, I know that it was not the fire that forever changed my life. It was the response of a larger community that showed me that I mattered in this world that changed me forever. I came to realize and believe that I was truly loved. So basic, but something I believe some don’t get to fully realize ever in their entire lives. Now, I carry the scars that I have (miraculously cloaked and mostly healed over), the truths that I am loved, and the name Jesus; the only thing I could hold onto when it mattered most.”