The 25-year-old firefighter who survived last summer’s deadly Twisp River blaze traveled from Montana to Seattle to allow experts to track his progress as he heals from burns that covered nearly 70 percent of his body.
Injured firefighter Daniel Lyon Jr. was back at Harborview Medical Center this week, partly to check in with doctors, but mostly to get on with his life.
The young man who survived last summer’s deadly Twisp River blaze traveled from his parents’ home outside Missoula, Mont., to allow experts to track his progress as he heals from burns that covered nearly 70 percent of his body.
“I get a little bit better each day,” said the 25-year-old.
But he also stopped by Mrs. Murphy’s fourth-grade class at Seattle’s St. Edward School to talk to the kids who have sent him cards and letters and jokes for months. He went shopping for nice shoes and new jeans, clothes like the ones he wore before the fire.
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And he planned to head to Pike Place Market with Megan — just Megan — the new girlfriend he met through mutual friends.
“It’s good to have something to look forward to,” Lyon said.
Slowly, he’s recovering from the Aug. 19 wildfire accident that claimed the lives of three buddies: Richard Wheeler, 31; Andrew Zajac, 26; and Tom Zbyszewski, 20, who died of smoke inhalation and burns.
“I miss all of them on a daily basis,” he said.
Lyon, who was released from the hospital in November, now spends five to six hours each day in therapy — physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy. He works hard to battle the scar tissue and contractures, a condition that causes shortening and hardening of the muscles, tendons and other tissue.
The biggest struggle is his hands, he said, which are rigid with scarring and missing the tips of his fingers. They make him dependent on others, which is hard, too.
“Being 25 and moving back in with your parents,” he said.
He’ll continue daily therapy and regular visits every six weeks to Harborview, where burn doctors are monitoring his progress. In a year, he may have more surgeries, including operations to release scar tissue and plastic surgery to improve his appearance.
It’s still hard to look in a mirror and see the reflection of burns and skin grafts.
“Initially, in the ICU, I didn’t like what I saw. It’s tough when you see your skin,” he said.
But he tries to focus on the improvements. His legs are regaining their old strength, he said. He went snowshoeing last weekend and hopes to go skiing soon.
“It may be on the bunny hill, but it’s still skiing,” he joked.
“What happened that day was Mother Nature showing her fury,” he said. “No one in charge could have changed it.”