A candle on Margaret Gaona’s nightstand changed her life forever.
“I wanted to burn all the wax out of the candle,” she said recalling the night of Feb.3, 2013. “The glass got hot and it exploded.”
It started a fire in the room of her house on Wiggins Road. She tried to get out, but she fell out near the bedroom door because of the smoke. Her daughter tried to call out, but the heavy smoke overpowered her.
In the wee morning hours of that day, firefighters, she said, saved her life.
“They risk their lives to save me,” Margaret said. “I thank them for going through a blazing flame to get me out.”
But it began a long journey to recovery after her body was severely burned.
She spent 362 days in the University of North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center and was on a ventilator from February through June of that same year.
“I went through several operations that I don’t know anything about,” Margaret recalled. “The docs told one of my family members to unplug me because I wasn’t breathing on my own.”
Her husband Rafael and family did not let that happen.
“That’s when they said I took a breath on my own,” Gaona said. “God had the last say.”
Margaret’s eyes were closed and she could barely see her family members. They were unable to hear her speak too.
“I tried to tell my family members that I loved them,” she said with a raspy voice. “I thought it was good that they came to see me.”
In the hospital, Margaret noticed she lost her fingers on her right hand.
“I was angry with God because I did not know why this had to happen to me,” she said.
But her sister Patricia told her that God would not give her any more than what she can bear.
“She told me that I would come through, but I had to have faith,” she said. “God can heal me.”
Patricia said family was there to help her keep fighting the damage from the fire.
“We tried to be there for support to let her know she was not alone,” Patricia said.
Her family is staying strong and has faith that Margaret is going to get better.
“She has been through a lot, and she has a long way to go,” Patricia said. “But I pray to the Lord that she’ll pull through.”
Four times a day, she has to do breathing treatments at her home. There’s still more work to do to extend the bones in her left hand.
In November of 2013 she had another operation.
“It was a terrible operation,” Margaret reflected. “I wanted to give up. I did not want to go on with so much pain.”
Patricia told her not to give up, because there’s something God wanted her to do.
“That’s why he gave me a second chance,” she said.
On New Year’s Day, she woke up with a joy in her heart.
“I knew that my Lord Jesus was my Savior and I was ready to put 2013 behind me and start 2014 with a brand new look and a brand new walk, because I knew I had Jesus on my side,” Margaret said.
She came home on Jan. 31 and went to her daughter’s house in Raleigh because she could not be left alone.
A week and a half later, she had to be rushed back to the hospital because of pneumonia.
“The doctor said I made it just in time,” Margaret said. “God was still with me and he brought me through that too.”
Margaret remembers coming home in April, but heart failure sent her back to doctors.
“God brought me through that too,” she said. “No matter what obstacles the devil set before me, God brought me through. I was his child.”
In the spring, she returned to a brand new home, thanks to her brother, Avon.
She does not want people to take God for granted.
Prior to the fire, Margaret said she loved to work a lot.
“No matter how much I worked, it seemed like I didn’t have enough money,” she said.
Margaret said she forgot about God.
“I made a mistake of shutting him out of my life,” she said. “I want to thank him and praise his name for this second chance because I’m a miracle.”
She had to learn to do simple things such as drinking, talking and eating again. It includes using her left hand and a special utensil to eat.
“Each and every day, no matter what my obstacles are, I know that I have Lord Jesus by my side,” she said. “I know when I am down and out, he comforts me. He’s a healer.”
During her recovery, Margaret has received a lot of support. Brown’s Chapel Church built her a ramp and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints visits her home.
She still has to make trips to Chapel Hill, because of fluid in her lungs and for other treatments.
Margaret has come a long way and encourages other to never give up.
“Sometimes God let’s things happen to us to test our faith,” she said.
For Margaret, the burn clinic had a wonderful team.
“I got to know them as my family because I spent so much time there with them,” she said. “They prayed with me and they cried with me.”
Physical therapy teachers worked with Margaret at the hospital. She enjoyed going outside in a wheelchair and watching the people and cars go by.
CNA Donna Monroe is currently one of the people helping her recover.
“Some days she’s a little down, but we try to encourage her,” Monroe said. “We tell her to keep praying and to trust in the Lord. That’s what keeping her-having that faith.”
Margaret believes everyone has something they need to say to God.
“He gives us life and he wakes us up every morning,” she said. “Even though we don’t realize, he walks with us every day. I’m going to keep praising his name because of the second chance that he gave me. I came a long way and it was because of him.”
(Chase Jordan can be reached at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter @SampsonInd)