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.