Dawson County Emergency Services personnel waited, lining the sides of Ridge Road on Monday, Jan. 18, with lights flashing, watching the road for approaching cars. Alongside them, the family and friends of Angela Frady waited patiently, despite the cold wind blowing.
A little black car appeared at the end of the dirt road, and the assembled people began smiling and waving as the car slowly approached, passengers’ hands sticking out of the open windows as they waved back. Pamela Hamalainen opened the passenger door and helped Frady out of the car to greet her friends and family.
After nearly four months spent fighting for her life, Angela Frady was finally home.
On Sept. 25, 2020, Frady was inside of her Dawson County home when a gas explosion caught it on fire. She was trapped inside and suffered second and third-degree burns over more than 80 percent of her body before she could be rescued.
Frady spent the next four months fighting for her life at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. But despite being given a 5 percent chance of survival, she overcame all odds and was able to finally return home to her family on Jan. 18.
Frady’s mother, Carolyn Hayes, said that having her daughter finally able to return home has been emotional for her and the rest of her family.
“It’s wonderful,” Hayes said. “I’ve been crying to have her home and not be kept away from her anymore cause they wouldn’t let us visit.”
Frady said that being home after so many weeks in the hospital is an amazing feeling, and that Hayes was a huge incentive for her to keep fighting no matter what.
“It feels awesome to be home,” Frady said. "I just couldn’t leave my mom.”
Pamela Hamalainen, Hayes’ cousin, said that when she heard Frady would be returning home she called the Dawson County Fire Department, and the same firefighters who had rescued Frady from the fire decided to take the time to come help welcome her home.
“They’re the same ones who responded to the fire,” Hamalainen said. “I called and talked to the fire chief this morning and told them she was coming home, and they said they wanted to be here.”
In the four months since the fire, the Dawson County community has come together to help the family rebuild. Hayes and Frady lost their home and all their possessions in the fire, so Hamalainen set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for them, which has since gained over $9,000 toward rebuilding their lives. The family also held a barbecue fundraiser on Nov. 14 to raise both money and awareness for Hayes’ and Frady’s needs.
Several local businesses have volunteered materials for rebuilding the home, and many local people have offered to volunteer their time to help. Local organizations, friends and family have all donated furniture, clothes and other items to Hayes and Frady.
According to Frady, the response from the community has been overwhelming, both throughout her time in the hospital and now that she’s home.
“Oh my gosh it’s been unbelievable,” Frady said. “So many people have reached out, old bosses and old friends, and I’m like wow this is a lot; I’m blessed.”
Hamalainen said that while there is still a long road ahead for Frady and her family with therapy, rehab and rebuilding efforts, the most important thing is that Frady is alive and home.
“The doctors gave her a 5 percent chance of survival; they even called the family in one night and said she’s not gonna make it through the night,” Hamalainen said. “But she has a praying mother and we all spent so many nights praying; when the doctors say there’s nothing more that can be done, that’s when the Great Physician steps in and says ‘I’m taking calls’.”
Frady and Hayes will be staying with Frady’s brother until their home is rebuilt, a mission that Hamalainen says she and her family hope to complete as quickly as possible.
Fundraising for rebuilding efforts are ongoing, and the family appreciates any and all donations, whether it be monetary gifts, donations of clothing or furnishings for the home or volunteering time.
To donate to Frady and Hayes, you can go to the GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/f/fkuceb-care-for-carolyn or call Carolyn Hayes directly at (706) 525-4970.