Survivor of third degree burns and CEO, 22 Interior and Styling, Yinka Matthews, became a social media sensation in her bid to move on from her near death experience. She speaks with Biwom Iklaki on her horrific ordeal, journey to recovery and how she survived the gas explosion with literally no more tell-tale scars.
Tell us about Yinka
My name is Olayinka Davis, born in Lagos. My dad was from Oyo State and my mother is Edo. I have two brothers; I am the first and have always been the back bone of my family. I basically grew up with my late grandma but after high school, I moved in with my dad.
So how did the gas explosion happen?
On Saturday, June 8, 2013 at about 8pm, I went to the kitchen and smelled gas so I opened the windows but the cylinder was in the kitchen. I waited for a while and went back and there was an explosion. The gas threw me from the kitchen into the living room; the roof, everything blew off. Luckily for me, it was night and all I wore was a wrapper so immediately it caught fire, I just dropped it and ran to the bathroom. I thought ‘I’m on fire’ so I just poured a bucket of water on myself, I was still on fire so I went to pick up the key because the house was locked and I walked out of the house.
My dad said everybody thought I was dead because immediately they heard the blow roof off and saw the house on fire, they didn’t think anybody was going to come out and nobody was ready to go inside.
When I got outside, I passed out and was taken to Ikeja General Hospital. Three days later, I woke up and I was told I had third degree burns. A burn is not something I wish for anybody; it is unimaginable pain. You can’t bathe, lie or sit; just pain. Nobody ever sees me and thinks I went through this; my healing has been divine. People ask ‘How could you survive a gas explosion without major scars?’
The first time I woke up, I cried myself to sleep. When I was in the hospital, my mother said ‘Please don’t show Yinka a mirror’. When they finally showed me a mirror, I became suicidal. Three months after leaving the hospital, I went to the mall and you know Nigerians, they stared until I came back home and cried myself to sleep.
However, luckily I have a cousin in the UK who is a dermatologist, he was the one who sent me the creams I began using. I told him, you know what, I am going to beat this thing, I am going to survive fire without having any tell-tale scars because when I tell my story, I want people to ask ‘where are the scars?’
For two years, I basically did not leave my house, which was when I started my company; 22 Interior and Styling so I could work from home. I was building my relationship with God. The first time I started noticing healing, I knew it was not just because of the creams. It took five years of therapy, of caring for my skin and eating healthy. There was a time I was eating just vegetables because you have to renew your system, and saying ‘God you can do this for me, give me a new skin’. My brother, Olawale, was my rock; he stood by me from day one in the hospital because I couldn’t even have a bath. He and my mom took turns to just clean me up and he was my hero. From 2013 to 2015, I did nothing aside from going to church; I had no social life.
What about your friends?
I lost someone that was dear to me; you know men are very unpredictable, so when things like this happen, the person I was thinking the world off left me. He left because I had burns he felt I would never recover from. But my real friends were there and supportive; I had good people that supported me through it all.
I cook now but only if my cylinder is outside and the gas cooker has an automatic lighter. For a long time I wouldn’t let people hug me because I was still traumatised in my head like if you touch my skin, it might fall off so It was hard to go out and to meet people.
Are you dating again?
I am talking with someone but he wasn’t there when all this happened. Someone from my past but the emotional scar is affecting everything. It is one of the reasons I shared that post, when I did, you need to see my ‘DM’; people with graphic pictures from all over the world saying I am an inspiration.
What are the things you loved to do that you regret you can’t do anymore or find difficult to do now?
I used to take risks a lot before. You could say ‘Yinka, let’s go to Abuja by night bus, I would be like yes, lets drive to Abuja. I was very spontaneous, not anymore. I used to go partying a lot but now if it’s not church in the afternoon, I’m not going.
How would you encourage people using your experience?
For everyone that is going through pain or trauma, I lived it. It is okay to have your down times but one of the most important things is that you survived; you are alive and that is for a reason. Burns and trauma break you down, emotionally, physically and otherwise, but when you say I am not going to be broken by this, you can look at your scars and say I am a survivor.
We have to be more safe with gas; Nigerians, take a lot of things for granted; the cylinders should not be in the kitchen, if you are going to put it in the kitchen, let there be space.
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