It was December 17, 2018, when Tonya was burned while her and her husband were cooking dinner at their at-home fire pit. She went inside to grab some steaks to place on the grates added to the fire pit to allow for cooking.
“A stream of lighter fluid squirted and I went up like a match!” she said.
It was such a shock that Tonya immediately took off running. She made it to her driveway before she remembered to stop, drop, and roll. Unfortunately, this method didn’t work due to the accelerant that was involved.
“I rolled for what felt like hours,” she said. “Then I thought, ‘This is it. This is how I die.’”
She then rolled to her stomach and asked God if this was how she was supposed to die. Immediately, she received a response to this question when she heard her husband say “Hold on baby! I’ve got you.”
In Tonya’s case, she could feel the heat of the fire, yet felt absolutely no pain. This is when she knew it was bad.
“In my mind, it was just me and that fire and how I can survive,” Meisenback said.
Her husband was finally able to extinguish the flames with his jacket — burning himself in the process. Tonya then immediately jumped up and ran into the house to see the damage the fire had caused.
“Everything looked red but not bad, ” she said. “I later learned that it takes a couple days for the skin to blister and ultimately die.”
Emergency services arrived within minutes of the accident and immediately took her to the hospital. It was here that Tonya was placed in a medically induced coma for two months.
For those two months I had dreams/nightmares and lived a whole separate life in my mind,” Meisenback said. “The debridement was so painful that I still felt it in my unconscious state. I didn’t know what it was but I knew I was being hurt daily.”
During these months, the doctors performed life-saving surgeries and skin grafts on her face, neck, chest, back, and length of both arms.
“I was burned in December 2018 and awakened in February 2019,” she said. “My whole body was ravaged, but I was alive!”
Thirty-five percent of Tonya’s upper body was burned with full thickness grafts taken from her legs and sides. Since then, she has had many more surgeries and says she has healed a lot both physically and psychologically.
“I spent two and half years hiding in my house,” Meisenback said. “I didn’t want anyone to see me.”
Tonya has since been able to gain back her confidence by buying make-up, wigs and everything she needs to do her nails at home. She is able to show her confidence and spread this positivity through Burn Beauty Survivor and @BurnedBeauty2018 –– an Instagram account that shows off different make-up looks.
Through these accounts, Tonya has been able to work towards her goal of helping other survivors find their balance where they feel confident again and even completed a photoshoot for a make-up company!
“I consider my scars to be a result of a well-fought battle that I won!” she said.