My name is Tonya and I am known as @burnedbeauty2018. I am a severe burn survivor and thriver and recently started a charity named Burned Beauty, Inc. in hopes of providing support, products and services to other burn survivors as they transition into their “new normal”. Just as a sidebar, I really dislike that term, “new normal”. It doesn’t really make sense to me because my life changes every time a surgeon picks up a scalpel. Yours may as well.
It was December 17th, 2018. A week before Christmas and My upper body was completely engulfed in flames. It had happened so quickly that the shock of it all prevented good decisions. I ran.
It was a temperate winter in Georgia that year and my husband and I were sitting outside by the fire pit talking, relaxing and having a few drinks. It was getting late and this particular fire pit allowed for adding grates and even a rotisserie for cooking. I ran inside to get the steak and he prepared the grates. I came back out, leaned over to place the meat and immediately felt something wet hitting my arm. It was lighter fluid. My husband had squirted it simultaneously as I reached in near the grates.
I felt the heat run up my right arm and across my back. I was shocked and terrified and I started to run. I don’t know why or where I was going, but I did. Suddenly I remember to stop, drop and roll. I do so and the flames are far too formidable considering the accelerant and my location on concrete instead of grass or dirt.
“So, this is how it happened. This is how I died.”
That seemed to be my only thought. Then, I decided to get right with God. I started to recite The Lord’s Prayer and then I asked God if this was how I was really supposed to die. 45 years old and burning alive?
It was the first (and likely the only) time I received an immediate response from God. I heard my husband (how had I forgotten him?) say, “Lay still, I’ve got you baby,” He was smothering the flames with his jacket.
Oh my goodness…I may survive this. That had not occurred to me. I felt only heat. No pain, I knew it was bad.