July 16th started out totally normal. I was visiting (my boyfriend) Kyle in Provo for the weekend. I hung out with my roommate Claire, and then Kyle and I, with some other friends, went out to the middle of nowhere. We shot at bottles, chased foxes, and then eventually went to a place we had been once before and had fun. It was an old abandoned mine shaft that was really really deep, and covered in a metal grate, that was probably about 10 yards by 10 yards, with a bigger hold in the middle. When we arrived, there were already about 25 other people there. People were throwing Molotov cocktail bombs down the shaft and watching them explode and they were also throwing fireworks. It pretty cool. Then we decided to try something (stupid) that we had heard about from other friends: pouring gas down the shaft and then stepping away and lighting it on fire from a safe distance. As the gas was being poured, someone unaware of the plan lit a firework, and it caught all of the loose gasoline on fire instantly. It was a huge fireball. The grate essentially became a BBQ with all of us standing right on top of the flames.
Everyone was running away, but because of the holes in the grate, it was difficult to move fast. For me, as I turned to run away, a stranger in a white shirt was standing right behind me, and I tripped and fell. I could feel my legs melting- that’s what it felt like- because they weren’t actually on fire. I felt so helpless, I couldn’t move, and the pain was so intense. Then the next thing I knew, I was on the dirt ground by myself, probably 12 yards away from the grate. I just kind of remember this flying sensation. And I just know that there were angels there, who lifted me away from the grate.
After a bit, everything became silent, I think everyone was in shock, including me. I was still in excruciating pain, so I started screaming for Kyle. He came running to me and even though his hands and face had 2nd degree burns, he and his brother still picked me up and took me to the truck, where everyone was piling into cars and racing to get service to call 911. In the car I was shaking and crying, and I was so scared. I could see my legs and it just looked like all the skin was peeling off. I remember thinking that this couldn't really be happening, stuff like this doesn't happen in real life, not to me.
After about 15 minutes, we finally met ambulances at a fire station. They started giving me pain meds right away. After that, I just remember Kyle calling my mom in the ambulance, and then the nurses at the hospital in Provo cutting off my shorts (I remember I was sad because they were my favorite shorts, haha), and then they sent me in another ambulance to the Burn Trauma Intensive Care Unit at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake.
I was there for 3 weeks. They confirmed after a few days that I had 3rd degree burns on 30% of my body, which was most of both of my legs. I can't say how glad I am that I was wearing a long sleeve hoodie with the hood on, and socks and shoes, because I got burned everywhere I wasn't wearing clothes. I then had skin graft surgery, where they took almost all the skin from my back, butt, and the fronts of my thighs that weren't burned as badly, and created the grafts to cover the rest of my legs. I did a lot of excruciating wound changes, and painful physical therapy to learn to walk again. Those two things were/are hardest physical things I've ever experienced, even while on heavy pain medication.
However, at no other time in my life have I felt peace like I did in that hospital room. Funny as it may sound, during other hard times in my life I draw strength from my experience healing from the burns, because I have never felt God so near as I did then. My positivity was so high, and I know that is because of all the prayers people were saying on my behalf.
I had to go back to the hospital for another skin graft surgery 9 days after I was discharged, and the process repeated itself. Finally, I was done with surgery for good and I moved home to Eagle and continued physical therapy for months. Once my wounds were all healed over, I was fitted for special compression tights that I wore for almost 2 years. My legs itched and bothered me a ton for even longer than that.
Now, five years later, I really feel like I have overcome 100%. The itchiness isn't bad except for an occasional bad day. I can walk, run, and do whatever I want to do. The scars are ugly, but I have accepted them as part of who I am. I am grateful for them, because they remind me every day how strong I am. When my heart is broken, I remember. When life is hard, I remember. I can do anything with God's help.
These are some pictures. Some of them are fairly graphic- just a warning.
In the hospital before the skin grafts. They were waiting to see which areas were indeed 3rd degree and would need surgery:
Trying to stand up:
Post-surgery. Taking out the staples:
I was pretty out of it, haha:
Back in the hospital, trying to fight the infection with these tube things so that I wouldn't have to have another surgery, which failed:
Physical therapy time, trying to stand up straight:
Home again, this is just to show the wraps I wore for a while until the wounds all healed:
Something weird happened, and I got a ton of blood blister things for a week or so:
A webcam check-up with my doc in SLC from Boise, about 2 weeks post-second surgery: