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

Councillor Doug Elford. (File photo: Amy Reid)
Elford to join Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society as a director

Fellow Safe Surrey Coalition Councillors Laurie Guerra, Mandeep Nagra and Allison Patton will be re-appointed to the board

(Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey council moves to reduce parking along rapid transit corridors

This also targets rental housing developments in Rapid Transit Areas

Big Splash water park is located in Tsawwassen. (submitted photo)
Big Splash reopens Canada Day with changes to keep the water park ‘safe for everyone’

Executive Hotels & Resorts has owned and operated the attraction since 2017

A cyclist stops traffic to allow a gaggle of geese cross the road. (Tino Fluckiger photo)
White Rock man asks motorists to be mindful of wildlife after close call

Impatient motorists drives into oncoming traffic

West Coast Duty Free president Gary Holowaychuk stands next to empty shelves inside his store on Tuesday (June 15). (Aaron Hinks photo)
Revenue down 97% at South Surrey duty free as owner waits for U.S. border to reopen

Products approaching best before dates had to be donated, others destroyed

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read