A fire victim struggles to stay in the workforce

Madelin: She had a bad feeling when she got to her home. When she came out of the house in the morning, she couldn’t breathe. That was the first time that she ever felt really sick.

“I had never experienced a thing like that,” Madelin says. “The drowsiness was real. There was no eye contact. I couldn’t handle myself. That was the first time that I really tried to get home. I tried really hard, but all I could do was put my baby and my dogs up. I really couldn’t walk.”

When Madelin left the house, she was just a few doors down from the fire chief, her boss. “He was like, ‘You can’t do that.’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘If you don’t, he’s going to have to arrest you.’ I said, ‘I’m not doing it.’ So, I was like, ‘This is the worse thing ever.’ ”

She called the doctor the next day, complaining of both body aches and neck and back pain. “They knew it was a house fire. They were saying, ‘We don’t know. We don’t know if you’re related to this woman or not. There’s a real possibility.’ ”

Madinin still hasn’t been treated for her anxiety. She thinks that helps her work better. She says she started getting high before she went to work.

“She’s the most amazing employee. I mean, she is the best,” says one colleague.

Even so, she doesn’t feel as though she’s still having a good time. “I don’t know what she’s doing here. But just talk about it,” Madelin says. “My world has changed since that day. I’m closer to her in a lot of ways now than I’ve ever been. Not friends, but I’m connected in a lot of ways.”

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