My husband accidentally set me on fire after he sprayed BBQ with lighter fluid – but I FORGAVE him

A WOMAN forgave her husband after he accidentally doused her with gasoline and set her on fire.

Tonya Meisenbach, 48, endured £2.1m of reconstructive treatment and is only half-way through the healing process after the incident.

The tragic accident occurred in December 2018 when she and her husband Donald were relaxing in their garden, preparing to cook dinner on their outdoor firepit.

Unfortunately, as Donald prepared the fire, Tonya leaned over, and lighter fluid sprayed on her arm, face and hair causing her to go up in flames.

Tonya, from Atlanta, US, was taken to hospital immediately but her burns were so severe that she was placed into a medically induced coma for two months.

In this time doctors performed extensive reparative surgeries on her including a full face skin graft.

Tonya spent a total of six months in hospital, and even when she was released, she would return regularly for various surgeries.

Loyal partner Donald was furious at himself for the accident and stayed by her side at all times, keeping a diary for her to read once she was taken out of the coma.

The hospital provided £1.7 million for her surgeries but were unable to pay any more – and Tonya had no insurance. Luckily, the staff applied for state assistance for her, and managed to secure her extra funding.

In total, her surgeries have cost over £2.1 million but she’s only halfway done.

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Tonya said: “My husband and I were outside with a firepit, a week before Christmas in 2018. It got late, so I decided to go inside and get the meat to make dinner."

“When I came back out, I reached in to put the meat on the grill. My husband was still building up the fire, but I didn’t realise it. He squirted the lighter fluid, which hit my hair, my arms and my clothes.

“I went up like a match.

“After that, I was in the hospital for six months. For the first two months, due to the pain and the fact that I had to have a surgery every week, I was put in a medically induced coma.

“All the skin that you see on me – none of that is my burned 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 physical therapists. All my muscles had atrophied.

“I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t swallow. I couldn’t even wiggle around in bed.

"While I was in hospital, my husband was angry with himself for the accident, and terrified of losing me. He kept a diary that's just between us, because he said the worst part was not being able to speak to me.

“Then they sent me to a rehab centre for a month, but while I was in that facility, I got a terrible scalp infection. It was a fungal infection – a type of fungus not usually found in humans.

“I couldn’t reach my scalp at the time because my arms wouldn’t bend, so I couldn’t scratch my head. I would use tongue scrapers or things that the doctors left behind because my head was so itchy.

“Ultimately, I ended up going septic because of all the scratching, and had to go back to the hospital.

“I’ve just had surgery on my eyes – I’ve always had weak eye muscles, but when I was in the coma, my right eye turned the opposite way.

“I’ve had trouble recovering, but I feel so blessed because I’m going to have straight eyes.

“I still have a minimum of fifteen to twenty more surgeries to go. If you get burned over fifty-percent of your body, you can expect to have fifty to one-hundred surgeries over your lifetime. I was only burned over thirty-five percent.

Tonya and her husband were connected to caretaker Miriam Lazo Chavez through mutual friends and she has been Tonya’s nurse and friend for over two-years.

She credits her amazing support system and her love of makeup for helping her get the confidence to enjoy life again.

“I’m very blessed with the people around me because I couldn’t survive without any of them," said Tonya.

“My husband was amazing – he stayed with me the whole time. He was there for me in hospital for all six months, and then he learned about administering my medicine, cleaning my wounds and bathing me – everything.

"My daughter was a veterinary major at the time, and when I woke up, she told me that she’d switched her major to nursing after seeing what the hospital had done for me.

“My ultimate goal is to be able to raise a lot of money and help a lot of people, but you need recognition, because there’s a lot of charities out there.

“Makeup gave me my confidence back – and it’s also getting me name recognition,” she said.

“I was depressed because I had always loved makeup and fashion, but after the burns, I looked so bad.

“My bottom lip was down to my chin. My mouth was constantly open – you could see all of my teeth. My eyes were puffy, and my skin was different colours.

“Makeup wasn’t going to fix it. Why would I bother putting makeup on if it’s not going to fix anything?

“As my face kept healing, I was still scared to go out. I never wanted to be seen.

Tonya hopes that by gaining publicity through modelling and makeup, she can make a real difference to those going through what she did.

“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. That’s when I really picked the brushes up, after Miriam encouraged me.

“I think that, once you’ve been through a trauma, the first thing you have to do is be thankful that you’re still here.”

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