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As fire raged through the home of 16-year-old Mark McDonough, he tried to rescue his mother and younger brother—his father was away on a business trip and had left him in charge of the family. McDonough sustained burns to 65 percent of his body before he was rescued, and in the horror of his excruciating pain, he pleaded with God to let him die. When he learned his mother and brother had died, guilt overwhelmed him.

Since he was a young boy, McDonough had been taught that there was nothing to fear in God’s world and that God would always be with him. His experience as a burn patient tested the limits of his endurance and faith. Questions haunted him: What could he have done differently to save his mother and brother? Why had God allowed this tragedy to happen?

While in surgery, McDonough had a near-death experience: “I knew I was close to something, someone, immense, and immeasurable. Someone in whose presence I felt loved, cherished, comforted, and protected was allowing me a sense of safety—complete bliss. It was God.” Though McDonough wanted to remain in the joy of God’s presence, he knew God had a plan for his life on earth.

After numerous reconstructive surgeries and other medical procedures, Mark finished high school and went on to study physiotherapy. As he worked with burn and trauma patients, he sensed God’s call to become a reconstructive surgeon. Through many obstacles, including overcoming addiction and a stroke, McDonough attained his goal.

Forged Through Fire isn’t an easy read as McDonough chronicles the pain and medical care of burn and trauma patients. But he lands in a place of hope: “I have learned that the pain has not been in vain; it’s the anguish of our trials and tribulations that inscribes a deep and passionate emotional imprint. More than an emotional scar, it’s a core conviction reminding me of the good that God ensures may come from ‘bad’ things.” (Revell)


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