Monique Van de Plas

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Life Is A Flame of Passion – In July 2009, as a single mother with a five-year-old son Tavius who had previously always been by my side; I began work at Home Depot on a three-month probation. After work in mid-September, I picked up my son now in Kindergarten to return home and enjoy watching cartoons on TV.

Suddenly, my dad was kicking the front door really loudly, which scared us – “I was honking the horn, why didn’t you come? The hood of the car was on fire and I need you to start the k-car!”.

The k-car was a car that had been parked in our carport for a long time and we recently hired a roofer to fix the roof so it had to be moved. I was instructed to pour gas in the carburetor when the ignition was turned on. I knew this was a bad idea having just been told the hood had been on fire but I reluctantly agreed. I figured my Dad knew more about cars but I had a bad premonition so I turned on the garden hose with a spray nozzle in case of fire.

The first time Dad turned on the ignition it went click, click, click when I poured in the gas, and again. The third time it went click click, click, click click and POP with a spark hitting my t-shirt turning into immediate flame quickly licking up my t-shirt. I knew ‘drop and roll; but I was scared to sit on the flames so I ran the short distance to the hose. The fire was now covering my face and I started screaming for help! My Dad, although hard of hearing and seeing, leads in a crisis situation. He got the hose on my face just as the fire was going over my eyes and put out the rest of the fire. I was in pain and hot so went to the shower while my Dad called the ambulance. When I stuck my head out of the bathroom door, my son wanted to know “why do you look like that, why do you have that black stuff all over your face”?.

The ambulance arrived and I asked if I was going to be okay also hoping that my Dad would say I would still be pretty. Being a single mom was never a question but somewhere in my mind, I wanted to have as many relationship options after this accident as before. Trauma brings up lots of emotions and fears!

I was admitted to Vancouver General Hospital intensive care unit with inhalation burns for about a week and a half, then moved over to the burn unit for another three weeks. Following the fire Home Depot hired me permanently. Tavius drew monkeys on the whiteboard when I got out of ICU and believed he was handling it all very well. After returning home, his kindergarten teacher said that he silently started crying in class one day saying “I miss my mom. I want to go home, hug her and tell her I love her”.

Things could have been so much worse but they weren’t and being alive is a gift that I have been given more than once with other things I have survived but because I am a burn survivor now twice. Now an active member of The Future Is Mine at many of the events that also include my son, I have made supportive connections and shown that I have a passion for life! I realize now that surviving fire is like a fresh start and gives you focus. I’m so grateful that I get to live and watch my son grow up. The thing about fires is after they take a forest, it takes a while but rain pours on that parched land eventually and new fresh things grow. That is what I have decided for my spirit. New fresh things grow. Flowers smell better. Life is a flame of passion. Laughter rings fuller and louder and sound is magical.


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