By Liana Jacob
MEET THE brave student who burnt EIGHTY-THREE PER CENT of her body after her house EXPLODED from a gas leak after she turned on a LIGHT SWITCH that killed her brother.
In July 2015, university student, Regina Trujillo (20), from Los Cabos, Mexico, was just 17-years-old when her family were moving into their new house, after installing the gas for their oven. Regina was out with her brother, Juan Carlos (19), and his friends until two in the morning.
When they got back to the house, Regina could smell something strange around the house, but didn’t think much of it as no one else noticed it. When she went into her mum’s en-suite bathroom and turned on the light, the whole house exploded.
She could hear her mum screaming in horror as she rushed her out of the house, trying to soothe her and keep her calm. Regina’s mum came rushing out of the blacked-out house while carrying her younger brother, Emilio (12) who was completely burnt and scared.
Regina’s mum told them both to take off their clothes, as it was dangerous to keep them on whilst she hosed them down with water. Regina saw her skin falling and blood pouring down her body.
Their mum was screaming and crying for Juan Carlos who was trapped inside but flagged down a passing car to take Regina and Emilio to hospital. Regina woke up the next day in the hospital and was told that 83 per cent of her body was covered in third degree burns.
Two months later after skin grafts, a tracheotomy, laser and z-plasty surgeries, Regina asked about her older brother Juan, but was told that he had passed away after the fire. She has since learnt to accept her scars and what happened to her.
“It was summer time and we were about to move to a new house, so we were all helping to move all the stuff to the new house. We have changed a lot of times before, so it was normal for us,” Regina said.
“My boyfriend Roberto took us to our new house, and that’s when the tragedy started. When we entered the house, it was like 2am, there was this smell all over the place.
“I told my brother that I felt that something bad was happening and that the smell was really strong, and it wasn’t normal.
“My mum was sleeping in her bed and at her side was Emilio, who was sleeping too. Juan Carlos was kind of drunk, so I think he didn’t really notice the smell, so I thought that maybe it wasn’t that relevant to panic about.
“Then I went into the bathroom inside my mother’s room and I left Juan Carlos alone in the other room. I don’t really know if it was my fault or not but when I turned the light on everything exploded.
“At first, I thought it was an earthquake and I started screaming for help. Everything was so dark, I couldn’t hear anything, there was this ‘beeeeeeep’ sound in my ears for like a long minute, until I finally heard my mother’s voice screaming too.
“I started telling her that I was so scared, and my body hurt a lot. I wasn’t able to stand up because my left foot was hurting a lot.
“My mum was guiding me and telling me to be strong, to stand up and leave the house as soon as I could because the house could explode again.
“My mum grabbed a hose which was in the neighbour’s garden and started to wet us. She told me to wet Emilio while she entered again to the house to look for Juan Carlos.
“But all our neighbours who went out to look at what was happening told her that the firemen were about to come; that it was really dangerous to go inside again.
“In the meantime, while I was spraying Emilio with the hose, I saw my skin start to fall and litres of blood running through my body, and that’s when I realised how much pain I was in and I started feeling weak.
“My mum was crying and screaming for Juan Carlos; then she stopped a car that was on the way and she gets us inside. When all three of us were inside the car, she told the man who was driving to take us to the hospital.”
Regina has had several skin grafts, a tracheotomy, which is an incision in the windpipe made to relieve an obstruction to breathing, laser surgeries to reduce the scarring and a z-plasty.
She has since lost her brother, Juan Carlos, to the fire and has credited her brother, Emilio, and her mum as her biggest supporters.
“It has been difficult, but mentally I think I grew up a lot; sometimes it’s kind of difficult hanging out with people my age because they are always thinking about dumb things,” Regina said.
“Since the accident I learned that the most important thing is to enjoy life with real people that are true to themselves, and I think that people my age only worry about how they look, or to be popular. I am also more mature about the decisions I make.
“I always use to ask myself ‘why me?’ I never understood that I was really hard for me going back to reality because it all had changed.
“My body was covered in scars, my head was shaved, it was hard for me to walk, or to write, and people staring at me was the most difficult because they didn’t know everything that I was going through; I felt so weak.
“It took me like two years to feel better; I took a lot of medications, and I had a lot of physical and occupational therapy.
“It was so hard and painful, in the beginning, I thought that I wouldn’t be able to move again, or walk, run or do anything ‘normal’.
“Getting dressed up was so difficult, but the worst was the dressing changes, taking a bath was very painful. Within the first nine months I learned how to walk again.
“Sometimes it was easier because my mum and my brother were dealing with the same things, so we always competed with each other.
“Some days I felt my whole world had collapsed, and I always used to compare myself with the ‘Regina from the past’, which made me feel really bad. I remembered my long hair, my body and it was difficult.
“Now I feel so strong and powerful, sometimes life stills being hard for me, but I know where I came from and who I am and that makes me feel better.
“My mum and Emilio are my warriors, and we are a team. We always cheer each other up when we are not in a good mood.
“Over time I see Emilio he inspires me to keep on going, and my mum is my unconditional soulmate who is always there for me.
“Obviously, the memories of my brother Juan Carlos help me every time I’m sad, he always said this phrase ‘no bad days’ and he was a living example of these.
“I once read this quote ‘life is ten percent what happens to us, and ninety percent how we react’, being a burn victim is the worst thing I have been through.
“I wouldn’t wish it on anybody, but as with all battles, we are the only ones that can decide on how we want our story to continue.
“I could have surrendered, but if I had, who would I inspire? All my suffering, the death of my brother, would be in vain.”