Angelica Conrad didn’t know she’d almost died in a fire until she woke up in a hospital to family members singing gospel songs by her bedside.
The 31-year-old single mother of two recounted the Oct. 4 blaze in the 1400 block of North 23rd Street that destroyed her home, her possessions and left her and her 6-year-old daughter hospitalized.
On Christmas Eve, the same East Baton Rouge EMS paramedic who rescued her soot-covered girl from the fire returned — this time to deliver nearly a hundred Christmas presents paid for by money pooled from EMS employees.
“I never expected all this,” Conrad said Thursday inside a relative’s house where she’s taken refuge, just a few doors from her charred, uninhabitable apartment. There were no smoke alarms to signal the fire, which was started by a pot on the stove, officials said at the time.
A home health aide, Conrad said she’s been unable to work full time because she’s also recovering from a serious car accident that occurred a week after the blaze.
EMS paramedic Mark Wilson said that on Oct. 4, he carried an unconscious Andrea Johnson, 6, from the scene. The girl had been burned and was put on ventilators for a week, he said. Andrea’s sister, Angelina Johnson, 7, was pulled out of the fire by a neighbor but wasn’t badly injured, he said.
On Thursday, the Johnson sisters were giddily arranging their new Christmas presents around a tree. Andrea asked for a doll of Doc McStuffins, an animated Disney character of a 6-year-old girl who acts as a medic for stuffed animals.
Wilson said he figured providing the gifts would alleviate pressure on Conrad and allow her to put on a meaningful Christmas for the girls.
Andrea clung to him, following him to the EMS van as the visit was ending.
“They had a rough year,” he said. “They needed a pick-me-up.”
Follow Maya Lau on Twitter, @mayalau.