Giv­ing back

Vic­tim of house fire works to­ward help­ing oth­ers like her

The Community Connection - - NEWS - By Mar­ian Den­nis mden­nis@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Mar­i­anDen­nis1 on Twit­ter

PHOENIXVILLE » Some­times ex­pe­ri­ences we have as kids can stick with us our en­tire lives.

No­body knows that bet­ter than Latasha Jones, 30, a Phoenixville res­i­dent whose ex­pe­ri­ence when she was a child helped shape what she chose to do with her fu­ture.

“I de­cided at an early age that I al­ways wanted to be a nurse. I have three chil­dren. I’m a CNA and I’m closer than ever. I’m at (Mont­gomery County Com­mu­nity Col­lege) and start clin­i­cals in Jan­uary and will grad­u­ate in 2020. I al­ways loved to take care of oth­ers … I have that first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence and will be able to un­der­stand the en­deav­ors they’re go­ing through and have more com­pas­sion.”

The ex­pe­ri­ence that Jones was talk­ing about hap­pened when she was just a tod­dler. In Fe­bru­ary 1990, at the age of 2, Jones was the vic­tim of a fire at her home in Park Springs Apart­ments. She was res­cued by Spring City fire­fight­ers but was left with burns and in­juries that left first re­spon­ders won­der­ing if she would make it through the night.

Af­ter be­ing left with se­vere scars on her face and en­dur­ing mul­ti­ple surg­eries, Jones views the ex­pe­ri­ence as the cat­a­lyst for her cur­rent en­deav­ors. A mother of three, Jones is now study­ing to be­come a nurse for a burn unit and is work­ing as a CNA while she fin­ishes school.

“I go to Cedar crest in Al­len­town and my goal is to work there or to go to Crozer-Ch­ester Hospi­tal just to give back. I’m very grate­ful for all the doc­tors and nurses. I was sup­posed to die. They didn’t think I was go­ing to make it,” said Jones.

But be­fore mov­ing on to ac­com­plish her goals, Jones had some other press­ing busi­ness to at­tend to — meet­ing the fire­fighter who al­lowed her dreams to start be­com­ing a re­al­ity.

“I wanted to talk to him about ev­ery­thing that hap­pened. At first he didn’t want to meet me be­cause he said it re­ally got to him. He loved to be a fire­fighter but my case ended his ca­reer. He wanted to stop be­ing a fire­fighter be­cause he didn’t think he would be able to per­form at his best,” said Jones. “When he re­sponded, he told me I would al­ways be a part of his life. He said he would be happy to meet me.”

Last week, af­ter 28 years, Jones fi­nally got to meet Frank Thees, and learn more about what hap­pened that day. She said it was an in­cred­i­bly touch­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“He got a call about the fire and no one wanted to go, but he went with one other per­son. He took the down­stairs and the other per­son took the up­stairs. I put my hand up and he thought I was doll and then he no­ticed I was a live per­son,” ex­plained Jones. “The thing that trig­gered me was the per­son that was with him said that anyone in there is as good as dead. I was burned badly, they couldn’t find an IV and when they did they put it in my fe­mur bone and I squeezed his hand.”

Jones said she never saw him af­ter that but learned from her meet­ing last week that by co­in­ci­dence, Thees found out that she had lived through the ex­pe­ri­ence.

“He went to ther­apy for a back in­jury and heard them

talk­ing about a burned girl and fig­ured out it was me. He didn’t see me but heard that I was do­ing OK. It was re­ally touch­ing,” said Jones. “Twenty-eight years later he said he was glad to have met me. He said I was like his adopted daugh­ter and my kids are like his adopted grand­kids.”

Hav­ing learned more about what hap­pened the day her life changed, Jones is con­tin­u­ing to work to­ward her dream of help­ing other vic­tims.

“I want peo­ple to not give up and I want them to un­der­stand that even though I was con­sid­ered hand­i­capped at one point I didn’t let it hold me back. With them see­ing that I’m pur­su­ing my ed­u­ca­tion, I want them to know it can be done as a par­ent, a burn vic­tim, as long as you put your mind to it. I want peo­ple to know that it can still be done. I’m not giv­ing up. I want to help peo­ple smile so other peo­ple see there’s some­one out there that’s like them. I’m go­ing to be their ad­vo­cate,” said Jones.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF LATASHA JONES

Latasha Jones stands with her son, Eli­jah, and former fire­fighter Frank Thees. Jones met Thees 28 years af­ter he saved her life in a fire in 1990 when Jones was just 2 years old.

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