Vancouver resident Angélica Vargas, 41, suffered third-degree burns to half her body after a candle lit a dress she was wearing on fire at a dinner party in November 2019. (Submitted)

Vancouver resident Angélica Vargas, 41, suffered third-degree burns to half her body after a candle lit a dress she was wearing on fire at a dinner party in November 2019. (Submitted)

‘I’m still alive’: B.C. burn survivor shares road to recovery after candle accident

For more than a year after her accident, Vancouver resident Angélica Vargas couldn’t look in the mirror. Now, she’s learning to accept her scars.

“If I’m here and still alive there’s got to be a reason for it.”

That’s the outlook Vancouver resident Angélica Vargas has adopted after a tragic accident left her with third-degree burns on half her body in 2019.

In less than 30 seconds the 41-year-old’s life was changed forever. At a November dinner party, her floor-length polyester dress caught on fire from a low-lying candle.

“I remember running around in circles in the living room screaming for help,” Vargas said. “It was a nightmare, I was conscious the whole time.”

The avid runner was rushed to hospital and spent two months bedridden as a patient at Vancouver General Hospital and GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre.

Relearning Walking, Running

After time in the high acuity unit and five plastic surgeries in a span of six weeks, Vargas had to relearn everyday activities including walking.

“When you’re in the hospital you can lose hope so easily,” she said. Her husband, Andrew, took a year’s leave from work to be by her side.

A total of five skin grafts had to be taken from lesser-harmed areas of her body, including her arms and back, and transplanted onto her legs and feet.

To this day, Vargas has not been able to enjoy long periods in the sun due to the danger its rays pose to her skin. As a Latina, this has proven difficult, she chuckled.

She takes medication to dull the nerve pain she experiences, wears compression garments and moisturizes her skin two to three times daily.

“I feel sick all the time,” she admitted, more than a year later.

“I get fatigued because my body is still in recovery.”

A Journey Towards Self-Acceptance

The most arduous part of her healing has been accepting the skin she’s in.

“Up until six months ago, I wasn’t comfortable touching my own skin,” she said. “I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror.”

It doesn’t help that strangers stare at her scars in public.

“They look and stare at my feet,” Vargas said.

Now, after more than a year of reluctance to share the story of her accident with people outside her close-knit circle of friends and family, Vargas has begun to open up.

“I want to tell other burn survivors like me, ‘You can make it.’” She has done so at the bedside of other burn survivors, with support from British Columbia Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund.



sarah.grochowski@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

BC HealthfireHospitals

Just Posted

A Category 3 fire ban will go into effect across the entire Cariboo Fire Centre beginning noon on Monday, June 21. (Pixaby photo)
Category 3 fire ban extends across entire Cariboo Fire Centre June 21

Campfires are still permitted, but no larger than half a metre high by half a metre wide

St. Joseph's Mission site is located about six kilometres from Williams Lake First Nation. (Photo submitted)
Williams Lake First Nation planning ground analysis of land near former residential school

St. Joseph’s Mission Indian Residential School operated from 1886 to 1981

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

BC Lions running back John White IV (3) runs with the ball during first quarter CFL football action against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Saturday, September 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
BC Lions file trademark for new logo

Canadian Football League team files for new design on June 1

The remains of the Mid-Island Co-op in Whiskey Creek along the Alberni Highway on Friday, June 18, after a blaze the day before devastated the gas station. (Michael Briones photo)
VIDEO: Camper van explosion burns Vancouver Island gas station to the ground

Nine fire departments responded to the incident, no injuries reported

The Montreal Police logo is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Some Quebec politicians are calling for an investigation after a video was released that appears to show a Montreal police officer with his leg on a young Black man’s neck during an arrest. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Probe called for after video appearing to show Montreal officer’s knee on Black youth’s neck

Politicians call for investigation after clip evokes memories of George Floyd incident

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. The website for a Broadway theatre showing "Springsteen on Broadway" said it would only allow guests "fully vaccinated with an FDA-approved vaccine" — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
No Springsteen for you: AstraZeneca not good enough to qualify for Broadway ticket

Victoria area mayor among those unable to attend New York entertainment due to COVID-19 restriction

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The BC Ferries’ website is down for the second time in one week from what they say is likely an overwhelming increase in web traffic. (Black Press Media file photo)
Surging web traffic crashes BC Ferries’ site again

Website down for second time this week

John Furlong told the Vancouver Board of Trade on Feb. 20, 2020 that he thinks the city could and should bid for the 2030 Winter Games. (CP photo)
PODCAST: John Furlong lays out a ‘provincial’ B.C. plan to host the 2030 Winter Olympics

Podcast: Chat includes potential role for Vancouver Island communities

The pilot of this single-engine propeller plane was unhurt after crash-landing in a Como Road orchard Friday, June 18. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Plane crash lands into Grand Forks orchard, pilot injured

RCMP have secured the crash site, pending investigation by Transport Canada

Most Read