A brave woman has revealed how she forgave her husband after he accidentally set her on fire in a horrific fire pit accident, leaving her with painful burns all over her body — forcing her to pay more than $2.9 million in cash. undergo reconstructive surgery.
Influencer Tonya Meisenbach, 48, of Atlanta, Georgia, recalls how she “went up like a match” after her husband Donald accidentally poured lighter fluid on her while trying to start a fire in the yard of their home in December 2018.
The mistake caused Tonya’s arm, face and hair to go up in flames – causing her to squirm in pain and with such severe burns that she had to be kept in an artificial coma for two months to give her body time to recover. to cure.
Tonya was immediately taken to hospital and while she was in a coma, doctors performed a series of extensive restorative surgeries, including a full facial skin graft.
Death Scare: A 48-year-old woman suffered horrific burns all over her face and body after her husband accidentally set her on fire while trying to light a fire pit in their backyard
Devastating: Tonya Meisenbach, of Atlanta, Georgia, was enjoying an outdoor dinner with her husband Donald when he accidentally sprayed her with lighter fluid
‘I went up like a match’: Tonya suffered such severe burns from the accident that she had to be kept in an artificial coma for two months as doctors rushed to save her life
In total, Tonya spent six months in the hospital, but even when she was released, she returned regularly for various surgeries.
Tonya’s husband Donald was furious with himself over the accident and always stayed by her side, keeping a diary that she could read once she was pulled out of a coma.
The hospital provided $2.3 million for her surgeries, but couldn’t afford more — and Tonya had no insurance. Fortunately, the staff applied for state aid for her and managed to bring in extra money for her.
In total, her operations have cost more than $2.9 million — and she’s only halfway there.
My husband and I were outside with a fire pit a week before Christmas in 2018. It was getting late, so I decided to go in and get the meat to make dinner,” Tonya said.
“When I came out again, I reached in to put the meat on the grill. My husband was still building the fire, but I didn’t realize it. He squirted the lighter fluid, which hit my hair, my arms, and my clothes.
“I went up like a match.
‘After that I spent six months in the hospital. For the first two months I was kept in an artificial coma due to the pain and the fact that I had to have weekly surgery.
Recovery: In her coma, Tonya had multiple surgeries, including a full facial skin transplant — and she’s had many more surgeries in the months since she woke up
Ongoing: Tonya’s surgeries cost a staggering $2.9 million — and she thinks she’s only halfway through her treatments
“All the skin you see on me, none of it is my burnt skin. That skin was too badly burned to be salvaged. Even my face is a full skin graft.
‘When I woke up, I spent a month trying to get my bearings by working with physiotherapists. All my muscles were atrophied.
‘I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t swallow. I couldn’t even wiggle in bed.
“While I was in the hospital, my husband was angry with himself for the accident and terrified of losing me. He kept a diary which is only between us because he said the worst thing was that I couldn’t talk to me.
“Then they sent me to a rehab center for a month, but while I was in that facility I got a terrible scalp infection. It was a yeast infection – a type of fungus not usually found in humans.
“I couldn’t reach my scalp at the time because my arms couldn’t bend, so I couldn’t scratch my head. I would use tongue scrapers or things the doctors left behind because my head was so itchy.
“Eventually all the scratching made me septic and had to go back to the hospital.
“I just had surgery on my eyes – I’ve always had weak eye muscles, but when I was in a coma, my right eye turned the other way.
“I’ve struggled to recover, but I feel so blessed because I’m getting straight eyes.
‘I still have at least 15 to 20 operations to go. If you burn more than 50 percent of your body, you could have 50 to 100 surgeries in your lifetime. I was only burned more than 35 percent.’
Tonya and her husband were connected to Miriam Lazo Chavez, 52, a caretaker from Marietta, through a friend of a friend, and she has been Tonya’s nurse and friend for over two years.
Tonya credits her great support system and her love of makeup for giving her the confidence to enjoy life again and help other people do the same.
“I’m very blessed with the people around me because I couldn’t live without them,” Tonya said.
“My husband was great, he stayed with me the whole time. He was there for me in the hospital for all six months, and then he learned about administering my meds, cleaning my wounds and washing me – everything.
“My daughter was a veterinary major at the time, and when I woke up, she told me that she had switched from her major to nursing after seeing what the hospital had done for me.
“My ultimate goal is to raise a lot of money and help a lot of people, but you need recognition because there are a lot of charities.
She hopes that by getting publicity through modeling and makeup, she can really make a difference to those going through what she did.
“Make-up gave me back my confidence and it also builds brand awareness,” she said.
“I was depressed because I had always loved makeup and fashion, but after the burns I looked so bad.
“My lower lip came up to my chin. My mouth was constantly open – you could see all my teeth. My eyes were swollen and my skin was different colors.
“Makeup wouldn’t fix it. Why bother putting on makeup if it doesn’t solve anything?
“While my face continued to heal, I was still afraid to go outside. I never wanted to be seen.
“One day Miriam said to me, ‘This is all in your head now. You don’t look like you used to.’
“It was a pretty simple statement, but it hadn’t occurred to me. Then I really picked up the brushes, after Miriam encouraged me.
“I think once you’ve been through a trauma, the first thing you should be thankful for is that you’re still there.”