Meshea Danner was on fire. Unable to unbuckle her seatbelt, she was trapped in her burning UTV.
“I was panicking because I looked … and my shoulder was on fire. I could see the flames on me. I started panic-clawing at my seatbelt,” Meshea said.
Meshea and her husband, Ely, were hundreds of miles away from their Colorado home in St. Anthony, ID, where they were spending the week with friends, camping and riding the sand dunes in their new dune buggy (UTV). It was September and only a few days into their trip when the side-by-side UTV burst into flames with the couple still inside.
“We came up over a little hill and all of a sudden there was just a massive explosion behind us. I remember my husband yelling, ‘Fire!’ and I turned around and there were flames in our face,” she said.
As the flaming vehicle bounced over the sand dunes, her husband managed to shut the UTV down and get out but Meshea was stuck and her shirt was on fire. Ely unbuckled her and pulled her from the burning vehicle. With his bare hands, he beat out the fire that was still burning on Meshea’s shoulder and back.
“None of us realized how bad I was burned. I just thought my shirt caught on fire,” said Meshea. “At that point, I think because of shock, I didn’t feel anything yet. But later, I remember the sun hitting my back, and that’s when I really started to hurt.”
It wasn’t until the paramedics arrived that she understood the extent of her burns. Meshea listened in fear as the paramedics listed off the different degrees of her burns with a three being one of the most severe.
“I could hear the paramedics counting, ‘One. One. Two. One. Two. Three. Two.’ I’ve never been burned before but I knew what they were doing – they were judging how bad I was burned. I heard a couple of threes, and I knew that wasn’t good,” she said.
Meshea was airlifted to Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, ID, where she was met by the practice director, Dr. Michael Lemon.
“When I first met Meshea, she had pretty significant injuries and was worried about the pain,” said Dr. Lemon. “When patients come in, they don’t know what’s going on or what’s going to happen. All they know is that they are in pain, and they don’t want to be in more pain. It’s my job to get them healed and help alleviate some of that anxiety. Honest communication is important in building that trust.”
As the acute phase of care was wrapping up in Idaho, doctors were already looking to the next phase, and the next location. Dr. Lemon reached out to Dr. Benson Pulikkottil, medical director of Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, CO, to take over Meshea’s treatment and continue her care closer to home.
“Our first concern was Meshea’s scars. She was worried about how noticeable the scars would be and the possibility of the scars restricting her movement,” said Dr. Pulikkottil. “But we have many scar revision options at our disposal, so we are going to make sure she gets back to having minimal limitations and back to living the life she wants to live.”
Thanks to Dr. Lemon, Dr. Pulikkottil, and their team of burn and reconstructive surgeons, Meshea is healing and back to living an active lifestyle. She and Eli have rebuilt their UTV, and they’re in the process of moving. She is looking forward to starting her laser scar revision treatments in a few months once her back is fully healed.
“It was a freak accident that I would obviously take back if I could. But, at the same time, the aftermath of it could not have been better as far as my care goes and feeling like I’m in good hands,” said Meshea.
“Knowing that people like Dr. Lemon and Dr. Pulikkottil know what they’re doing, and they’re taking care of you and looking out for your best interest, it puts you at ease, especially when you’ve gone through a traumatic injury like this. I feel really, truly taken care of.”