“I remember seeing this funnel of fire coming at me,” says Cedric Jones of the explosion that ripped through his second-story apartment on the evening of June 3, 2012. “This big circle of fire and I just froze.”
Somehow, Cedric was able to walk out to the front lawn, where he collapsed onto his knees. After that, he doesn’t remember much.
The 56-year-old was rushed to Columbia St. Mary’s Emergency Department and then transferred to the Regional Burn Center, where he spent the next 60 days in a chemically induced coma.
Cedric suffered full and partial burns over 50 percent of his body – primarily his arms, thighs, back and face. He also lost the fingers on his right hand. When he first arrived at the Emergency Department, in fact, doctors didn’t think he was going to make it. And when Cedric finally woke up in early August, he didn’t want to make it.
“I woke up not wanting to live. I was in a lot of pain and I gave up on everything,” he says. “But the people at Columbia St. Mary’s Burn Unit were so kind they gave me the will to push through. They treated me with so much respect and were so gentle – everyone from my therapists Randy, Sara and Eileen down to the cleaning women Loretta. They understood what I was going through and they gave me the reason to fight. They’re why I’m here today.”
But while after 144 days in the hospital the physical scars were healing, the psychological ones were still raw. “For a long time I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror,” Cedric says.
Weekly burn survivor support groups at Columbia St. Mary’s helped a lot. But it was a trip to World Burn Congress in October 2013 that changed everything for Cedric.
World Burn Congress is an annual conference that brings together hundreds of burn survivors, their families, care givers, firefighters and other burn care professionals from all over the world. It’s an invaluable opportunity for people to meet, share stories and provide support for one another. And, in fact, a portion of the money raised at the BCGI every year goes toward paying for burn survivors like Cedric to attend World Burn Congress.
“I listened to people who had been through it longer than I had and it taught me a lot about myself and about my burns and how to accept it,” Cedric says. “Everyone made you feel like you were somebody. They knew what you’re going through and helped you get through it. Because of them I can look in the mirror today.”
Now, nearly two years removed from the accident, Cedric is doing well. He volunteers daily at his church and while he’s still recovering and re-learning how to perform some daily functions, his outlook is positive.
“It’s important that people know that being a burn survivor doesn’t mean you have to give up,” he says “There are people out there who care about you and are willing to help you as long as you’re willing to help yourself.”
Cedric Jones passed away in his sleep on September 23, 2015, at the age of 58.