When she was two years old, Cassandra Rigg suffered third-degree burns to the chest, face and arms during a house fire said to be linked to a case of arson in Linstead, St Catherine.
“I find it to be a mystery,” Rigg told The Jamaica Beacon. “What I am sure about, however, is that I turned out to be the victim.”
Rigg said she has been told that her mother, Delores McCarthy, was in Linstead Hospital having a baby on the night of the fiery ordeal.
Her house, which was located on Bronx Street in Linstead, may have been burnt mistakenly during a feud between her neighbour and a woman from Kingston.
Rigg, whose father George Rigg pulled her from the inferno, spent the next seven months undergoing surgeries mainly at Bustamante Hospital for Children in Kingston.
“I spent seven months there while a team of plastic surgeons was doing multiple skin graphs,” she explained.
“For most of my primary school years, I also was in and out of hospital doing more surgeries.”
The last surgery happened in 1999 when Rigg was in third form at Charlemont High School, Linstead.
“I had to wear a red hat to high school because I had a tissue expander implanted in my forehead to stretch the skin on my face in order to eliminate some of the scars,” Rigg said.
“That was a very painful surgery; I couldn’t laugh or smile for about three weeks.”
Rigg admitted that, in addition to the medical complications she faced, she initially had a tough time with people staring contemptuously at her as a result of her scars.
“Some asked questions; some didn’t,” she noted.
She eventually had a life-changing experience when a Portland relative encouraged her to stop undergoing surgeries and to allow people to accept her with her scars.
“I decided that I didn’t want any more surgeries, and my doctor agreed,” added the Linstead native, who stated that her self-confidence also took a quantum leap.
“I was not afraid to wear a certain type of clothing; I wasn’t afraid to get involved.”
“Sometimes I don’t even remember that I have the scars if I don’t look in the mirror, and even when I do sometimes I don’t see them,” said the 33-year-old mother of a teenage son.
“My son has never asked what happened to me,” Rigg told The Jamaica Beacon. “I have a partner who also loves me dearly despite my experiences.”
Rigg, who is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Primary Education at Moneague College, hopes to eventually teach her students an important lesson not usually taught in the classroom.
“Self-worth is very important,” she emphasized.
“If you don’t have self-worth, you will end up having to start over and over again instead of moving forward.”
As part of moving forward, Rigg has found it necessary to forgive the person whose poor judgment almost took her life in 1986.
“Despite what the unknown person did to me, he or she did not create a permanent scar on my life because I am strong enough to forgive them; and I have done that already,” Rigg further declared.
By Horace Mills