Interviews, News

Yinka Mathews, from burns to beauty: the inferno, her feelings and faith as told to Azuka Jebose

This presentation is a bit long but engaging. It is a spectacular tear-jerker story of Yinka Mathews, who survived severe fire burns from a gas explosion at her home,  to tell her story. I was introduced to Yinka by my dear friend here, Humble Prince Olu A. Faloye ( I do not like him because his own is too much sha). Olu posted an encouraging update on this young lady and when I read his briefs, I was moved. I reached out to Yinka and appealed to her to tell her story so as to encourage other Burn victims. Her story is powerful, captivating and engaging. She lives to tell her story… Please be patient  as you read: 

Weekends, for a successful single girl in a mega city such as Lagos, can be thrilling. I looked forward to ending of every week, especially when I had worked hardest and accomplished my set goals for the week. ‘Thank God, it’s Friday’ is usually a gracious statement for me at the close of a busy bustling week in Lagos.
This spectacular weekend of June 8, 2013, I felt like a sweepstakes winner because my week hustles were profitable. I was grateful to God and to my efforts. I decided at sunrise on Friday to treat myself to a bowl of fresh fish soup, just to serenade…I deserved it. It’s the end of the week…Why should I not spoil myself?… I earned it because I worked hard. Life is a journey and whenever you get the chance to celebrate your life, take any moment and do just that. I lived captivatingly, as a successful Events Planner in Lagos.
Jebose, on Friday evening, I went to the ATM and got a few cash for market musings on Saturday morning.  After I returned from my last hustles, I made my fish soup and retired to bed for a decent rest. A few hours after resting, the crave for fish soup was intense. I could smell the enticing aroma of the soup I prepared earlier. I also smelt gas leakage oozing from the kitchen. I went to the kitchen, checked the gas cylinder as I served myself a plate of my delicious fresh fish soup.
I secured the gas leak by tightening the gas cylinder head where the tube connected the Gas stove as I retired to enjoy my fresh fish soup meal.
Later, I returned to the kitchen because I smelt gas leak again.  I began to adjust the cylinder, checked where the leakage was coming from when suddenly, there was a loud explosion. Within minutes, my apartment was consumed by fireballs and thick dark smokes everywhere… I was coughing, burning and disoriented.  My face was grilling from the explosion…Everywhere in the apartment was on fire!. Things were exploding in my flat… I was alone. The flat was located inside my late dad’s sprawling compound. He had his home across from my apartment. I rushed to my bathroom and poured water to quench the burns which were peeling my skins… I was on fire… I dropped the wrapper I had on. It was a miracle how I managed to find my house keys in a burning house to unlock my exit door… I was calm for a few minutes as I burnt…. I grabbed my keys, ran to the door and into the streets. I was ready to run inside a dirty gutter naked just to get away from that fire. I began to scream as my whole body cooked:  Fire! Fire! Fire! 
My face was boiling, my clothes were blazing. The loud explosion attracted my dad, neighbours and passersby. My dad ran out from his flat, towards the raging inferno, screaming at me. I had managed to stagger into the street, my skins were being roasted. I was in anguish. The pains were agonizing. I was burning, alive. It was the most grotesque feeling. Street people and others began to douche my body with all sorts of liquids: some threw eggs at me, others poured oil, water while other bystanders hurriedly ran towards the gutter that snaked through our streets, found a container and brought dirty gutter wastes and stagnant water to pour on me… Everyone was mystified by the speed the gas explosion travelled within seconds and ravaged my body…
Jebose. the only part of my body spared was my back. Everything in the front: my face, legs, stomach, breast, thighs, nose and mouth were torched severely. The gas explosion was so loud it attracted the community. The house was blazing and everyone around our street tried to help… The people thought a bomb had exploded. They did not expect me to come out alive. My late dad collapsed from smoke inhalation before he was revived by neighbours and helpers. He thought I had died.
I ran naked into the street: neighbours and other street people saw me burning alive and quickly began breaking eggs on me to soothe my pains and anguish. I was in a bad nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from. How do you really deal with such pain of being burnt alive? No human should go through such extreme pain. I was in so much pain that I became numb. Jebose, my pains numbed my feelings. I didn’t care to live anymore. I just wanted to roast to death then. I accepted and braced up to be burnt to death. It’s like out of body experience: Like you are dead and still breathing. It ‘was a trauma I still cannot explain…. I can never express enough, the anguish I felt. Six years after the incident, my heart hurts like it’s about to explode. I couldn’t take a bath for months. Burns are hell on earth….
My late father and other members of our family, alongside sympathetic neighbours, rushed me to Lagos teaching hospital in Ikeja. I was in pains… I lived in hell. My burnt skins began to turn green and black: nasty and painful blisters dotted my body and my face. I sang to numb my pains, to deny the things happening to me. I sang to cover my sorrows and tears. Jebose, I kept singing the only song I knew would save me: “It’s you, it’s only you Jesus… it’s you…” I had never felt that much pain.  I was on fire. A neighbour kept fanning me as we waited for transportation to the hospital. My mother and brother were screaming that I was burning… Yes. I was burning. I couldn’t sit. I couldn’t sleep.. I could not eat…


Doctors at the Burns Unit of the hospital were able to stabilize my horrific experience and pains. I stayed in hospitals for months, shifting from one hospital to another. My mother and brother took turns to bathe and care for me. I could not do the simplest daily chores as simple as unassisted daily care for myself. I became dependant on my family to clean, feed and nurse me. I was hopeless. Imagine your brother and mother bathing and feeding you every day like their newborn child?. I was slowly sliding into depression. Life was no longer a thriller. I didn’t want to live that way. I didn’t want to become a burden of care to my family. I didn’t wish for them to interrupt their lives for my own. No, I did not.
 I wanted to be normal again. I wished to live an enraptured life. I wanted that beautiful hybrid energy lifestyle I had before the gas blast. I didn’t know if I would recover from that tragedy. The more I thought about those days and life at the hospital, the deeper I slid into depression; wished to exit this earth. I silently asked God to end my life rather than punish my family and me, that way. I lost the desire to live and become well again.
 I had fallen carelessly in love with what I considered my Emperor charming. But happenstances in life truly bring out real love and who we really are: my lover then never bothered to visit me at the hospital. The worse mistake was to send pictures of my charred body to him. He would call me every day and we talked, my voice weakened from the whole experience. Soon our daily calls became distanced. I noticed he called less and those long chats became edited life for him.  He walked away from me because I had been charred by a damn gas leakage explosion. He thought I would never recover from a seared beauty and body. He felt I would become an ugly burns victim that would be stigmatized by my looks and burns. So he simply moved on… I didn’t know where to turn to. The man I cared for walked away from me. He was ashamed to be seen with me because I had been burnt by a gas leakage explosion.  My heart was smashed. You could see, from any distance, the blood splashes on the walls of a broken heart from the smash. Things were happening to me so fast and sad. My faith was weak…
But through the pains of yesterday, I made a vow, thanks to patients at the hospital and a few amazing doctors, to return to living and existence. I was motivated by these wonderful patients and doctors. I found reasons to live and glorify God. I began to emerge from depression, embraced my new life. I prayed to God that If he walked me out of the painful past, I will glorify him. I made a vow that I would raise from the inferno; from the burns of my life to become a beautiful spokesperson and advocate of Burns victims. Look at me almost eight years after, I am back to life. Jebose, today, I am Living….”

Weekends, for a successful single girl in a mega city such as Lagos, can be thrilling. I looked forward to ending of every week, especially when I had worked hardest and accomplished my set goals for the week. ‘Thank God, it’s Friday’ is usually a gracious statement for me at the close of a busy bustling week in Lagos.
This spectacular weekend of June 8, 2013, I felt like a sweepstakes winner because my week hustles were profitable. I was grateful to God and to my efforts. I decided at sunrise on Friday to treat myself to a bowl of fresh fish soup, just to serenade…I deserved it. It’s the end of the week…Why should I not spoil myself?… I earned it because I worked hard. Life is a journey and whenever you get the chance to celebrate your life, take any moment and do just that. I lived captivatingly, as a successful Events Planner in Lagos.
Jebose, on Friday evening, I went to the ATM and got a few cash for market musings on Saturday morning.  After I returned from my last hustles, I made my fish soup and retired to bed for a decent rest. A few hours after resting, the crave for fish soup was intense. I could smell the enticing aroma of the soup I prepared earlier. I also smelt gas leakage oozing from the kitchen. I went to the kitchen, checked the gas cylinder as I served myself a plate of my delicious fresh fish soup.
I secured the gas leak by tightening the gas cylinder head where the tube connected the Gas stove as I retired to enjoy my fresh fish soup meal.
Later, I returned to the kitchen because I smelt gas leak again.  I began to adjust the cylinder, checked where the leakage was coming from when suddenly, there was a loud explosion. Within minutes, my apartment was consumed by fireballs and thick dark smokes everywhere… I was coughing, burning and disoriented.  My face was grilling from the explosion…Everywhere in the apartment was on fire!. Things were exploding in my flat… I was alone. The flat was located inside my late dad’s sprawling compound. He had his home across from my apartment. I rushed to my bathroom and poured water to quench the burns which were peeling my skins… I was on fire… I dropped the wrapper I had on. It was a miracle how I managed to find my house keys in a burning house to unlock my exit door… I was calm for a few minutes as I burnt…. I grabbed my keys, ran to the door and into the streets. I was ready to run inside a dirty gutter naked just to get away from that fire. I began to scream as my whole body cooked:  Fire! Fire! Fire! 

My face was boiling, my clothes were blazing. The loud explosion attracted my dad, neighbours and passersby. My dad ran out from his flat, towards the raging inferno, screaming at me. I had managed to stagger into the street, my skins were being roasted. I was in anguish. The pains were agonizing. I was burning, alive. It was the most grotesque feeling. Street people and others began to douche my body with all sorts of liquids: some threw eggs at me, others poured oil, water while other bystanders hurriedly ran towards the gutter that snaked through our streets, found a container and brought dirty gutter wastes and stagnant water to pour on me… Everyone was mystified by the speed the gas explosion travelled within seconds and ravaged my body…
Jebose. the only part of my body spared was my back. Everything in the front: my face, legs, stomach, breast, thighs, nose and mouth were torched severely. The gas explosion was so loud it attracted the community. The house was blazing and everyone around our street tried to help… The people thought a bomb had exploded. They did not expect me to come out alive. My late dad collapsed from smoke inhalation before he was revived by neighbours and helpers. He thought I had died.
I ran naked into the street: neighbours and other street people saw me burning alive and quickly began breaking eggs on me to soothe my pains and anguish. I was in a bad nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from. How do you really deal with such pain of being burnt alive? No human should go through such extreme pain. I was in so much pain that I became numb. Jebose, my pains numbed my feelings. I didn’t care to live anymore. I just wanted to roast to death then. I accepted and braced up to be burnt to death. It’s like out of body experience: Like you are dead and still breathing. It ‘was a trauma I still cannot explain…. I can never express enough, the anguish I felt. Six years after the incident, my heart hurts like it’s about to explode. I couldn’t take a bath for months. Burns are hell on earth….
My late father and other members of our family, alongside sympathetic neighbours, rushed me to Lagos teaching hospital in Ikeja. I was in pains… I lived in hell. My burnt skins began to turn green and black: nasty and painful blisters dotted my body and my face. I sang to numb my pains, to deny the things happening to me. I sang to cover my sorrows and tears. Jebose, I kept singing the only song I knew would save me: “It’s you, it’s only you Jesus… it’s you…” I had never felt that much pain.  I was on fire. A neighbour kept fanning me as we waited for transportation to the hospital. My mother and brother were screaming that I was burning… Yes. I was burning. I couldn’t sit. I couldn’t sleep.. I could not eat…
Doctors at the Burns Unit of the hospital were able to stabilize my horrific experience and pains. I stayed in hospitals for months, shifting from one hospital to another. My mother and brother took turns to bathe and care for me. I could not do the simplest daily chores as simple as unassisted daily care for myself. I became dependent on my family to clean, feed and nurse me. I was hopeless. Imagine your brother and mother bathing and feeding you every day like their newborn child?. I was slowly sliding into depression. Life was no longer a thriller. I didn’t want to live that way. I didn’t want to become a burden of care to my family. I didn’t wish for them to interrupt their lives for my own. No, I did not.
 I wanted to be normal again. I wished to live an enraptured life. I wanted that beautiful hybrid energy lifestyle I had before the gas blast. I didn’t know if I would recover from that tragedy. The more I thought about those days and life at the hospital, the deeper I slid into depression; wished to exit this earth. I silently asked God to end my life rather than punish my family and me, that way. I lost the desire to live and become well again.
 I had fallen carelessly in love with what I considered my Emperor charming. But happenstances in life truly bring out real love and who we really are: my lover then never bothered to visit me at the hospital. The worse mistake was to send pictures of my charred body to him. He would call me every day and we talked, my voice weakened from the whole experience. Soon our daily calls became distanced. I noticed he called less and those long chats became edited life for him.  He walked away from me because I had been charred by a damn gas leakage explosion. He thought I would never recover from a seared beauty and body. He felt I would become an ugly burns victim that would be stigmatized by my looks and burns. So he simply moved on… I didn’t know where to turn to. The man I cared for walked away from me. He was ashamed to be seen with me because I had been burnt by a gas leakage explosion.  My heart was smashed. You could see, from any distance, the blood splashes on the walls of a broken heart from the smash. Things were happening to me so fast and sad. My faith was weak…
But through the pains of yesterday, I made a vow, thanks to patients at the hospital and a few amazing doctors, to return to living and existence. I was motivated by these wonderful patients and doctors. I found reasons to live and glorify God. I began to emerge from depression, embraced my new life. I prayed to God that If he walked me out of the painful past, I will glorify him. I made a vow that I would raise from the inferno; from the burns of my life to become a beautiful spokesperson and advocate of Burns victims. Look at me almost eight years after, I am back to life. Jebose, today, I am Living….”

*I was in my late 20s when the gas explosion accident happened. I had my own small business, 22 Interior Decor Styling Company. It was an event planning, interior decoration and styling business.I was in the hospital for almost six weeks before being discharged as an outpatient: the healing process took a toll on me and my life changed as I lived with daily pains and returned to the hospital every week to dress my wounds and other follow-ups to help ease my pains and discomfort.   

I didn’t have any surgery. The pains, discomfort and scars have healed.

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