SVI-NEWS

Your Source For Local and Regional News

Slider

Slider

Featured Local News News

Teylor’s Hope: “Miracles Aren’t Dead”

Perhaps the most important question asked Teylor Dunn since “the accident” was not by this reporter. It was by Shawn Dunn, Teylor’s father.
“What do you want to come out of all this,” referring to SVI Radio/News interviews? “What message do you want to give?”

Teylor’s hopes were succinctly simple: “Christ is there. Even if you’re not feeling His presence, He’s still there, but it’s through other people.
“God is always there whether or not you feel Him. You feel Him through other people. If you believe you’re not alone, then you’ll come to see the ways that God is there.”

Emotional and spiritual maturity are naturally part of this young woman’s nature – she turns 20 on December 3. But these traits were refined by the “before and after.”

Recent photo of Teylor Dunn (Photo Courtesy Dunn family)

The “and” in the “before and after” was 15 months ago – August 3, 2020. Around 8:30 that morning, 18-year-old Teylor, the daughter of Shawn and Stephanie Dunn, was helping prepare a food truck at the county fair. She went to light the grill when propane exploded – blowing flames around her head, neck, arms and legs.

“I remember flames everywhere,” Teylor told SVI Media. “We had to run through the fire to get out.”

The three young people in the trailer, Teylor, Treyson Clark and Anthyn Titensor, burst out the door and fell to the ground. “I remember lying on the ground and felt like everything started turning to cement. It was hard to move my face.”

All three were burned, but Teylor bore the brunt of the blast. Treyson was treated at Star Valley Health Medical Center and released. Anthyn was airlifted to Idaho Falls and returned home a few days later to recover. The young woman set to begin her freshman year at the University of Wyoming was burned on 49 percent of her body, mainly third degree. She would spend the next two months in the burn unit at University of Utah Medical Center.

She also wouldn’t breathe fresh air for 32 days. For three weeks, she was in an induced coma. Teylor remembers everything from the explosion to the ambulance – then it’s a blank. To intubate her, the EMTs had to put her out.

Star Valley EMT Travis Osmond was one of the first responders. Weeks later, he told Shawn and Stephanie at the family home in Bedford that Teylor’s first response was, “Go take care of Anthyn,” who was in extreme pain.

Osmond looked into her mouth and could see her throat swelling. In the ambulance after putting her out, the other responders said she wouldn’t survive. “I knew they were wrong. I felt in my heart she would make it,” he told the Dunns.

For a time, however, the unknown became routine. The simplest signs of progress were celebrated – a smile, a wave of fingers.
There were some big ones– coming off the ventilator earlier than expected, Teylor getting to talk with her best friend on the phone just before going on vocal silence to heal inflamed vocal chords, getting to go outside.

Miracles carried Teylor and her parents – only needing one donor skin graft before Teylor’s own skin could be grafted, getting to see her brothers sooner than expected.

More than a month after the explosion, Teylor was told she could go outside for a few minutes. Those minutes grew to an hour daily – and the sun and fresh air became her lifeline. She described it in one word, “relief.”

“Some sense I’ll be able to leave the hospital, knowing it would be better.”

For Stephanie and Shawn, those daily doses of sunshine became family therapy. And the one thing over which Teylor and her parents could exert some control in their lives. They found a spot in a grassy area where they could just be a family.

It was there she could be with both parents and again see her brothers, Payton, 25; Wyatt, 18; Cash, 15; and Zane, 12. “Zane immediately started crying” when he saw his big sister, Shawn recalled.

A hug has “so much meaning,” Teylor said of those first careful embraces. “This affects more than just me.”

Teylor Dunn does weight machine shoulder pulls at Star Valley Health Physical Therapy in Thayne, just 15 months after being seriously burned in a food truck explosion at the county fair. On this side of “before and after,” the nearly 20-year-old plans to attend the University of Wyoming in Laramie next semester. (Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps)

This family affection carried the Dunns through days of progress and regression, days of pain and wound washing and surgeries and skin grafts – and tears.

Progress is “relative,” Shawn told SVI. “We would look at anything as progress. The swelling started going down. That’s progress.”

The first day in the burn unit, swelling legs threatened circulation. The protocol was to cut incisions up the sides of Teylor’s legs “to allow for expansion so she can get blood flow to her feet,” Stephanie recalled.

The incisions worked and the swelling went down. First sign of progress.
There was early heart failure and blood loss. “It’s a shock to her whole system,” Shawn related.

Teylor calls it a miracle that she required only one donor skin graft – which means donor skin from cadavers. Then she was able to use her own skin – taken from parts of Teylor’s body that weren’t burned.

“That’s when the true healing starts,” Stephanie related. It’s also when pain amps up. Teylor said the areas where they took skin hurt more than the burn sites. “Donor sites [her own] hurt more than anything else during the entire recovery because that’s where none of the nerves are damaged.”

Then there was wound care – meaning “debridement,” the washing and scrubbing away of dead tissue. That began in bed and “progressed” to what is called the “tank room.”
Physical therapy began early and continues to this day with Dan Jeske of Star Valley Health Physical Therapy. What began simply as blinking her eyes several times a day to reduce eyelid swelling – which her dad ensured she did – and standing unaided for 3 seconds at the hospital, expanded day by day to walking a few steps to her bed, then laps around the burn unit. Then finally to lunges, jumps, weights, running on the treadmill and upright bicycling.

It’s been 15 months of inches, feet and yards. Two weeks before Thanksgiving, Teylor was with Jeske at physical therapy. After running for several minutes, she was winded – probably in pain. Jeske asked, “Do you need a break?”

“I’m ok,” Teylor replied and dropped to the floor for sit-ups with hand weights.
“Teylor is an amazing person. She works hard,” Jeske told SVI after Teylor’s workout. “She’s never given up even in extremely low points where it’s been painful and discouraging. She’s just powered through. She’s had an incredibly good attitude.”

Teylor credits her attitude to three things: her family, her faith and to a woman named Becky. Early in her recovery, Teylor related emotionally, she didn’t feel strong or positive. She never felt angry – nor does she blame anyone, she emphasized to SVI. No one was at fault for what was simply a terrible accident.

In photos above and below, Teylor Dunn recovers from third degree burns on 49 percent of her body after an explosion at the county fair 15 months ago. Below, dad, Shawn Dunn, comforts his beloved daughter, then 18. In the more than year since the accident, Teylor has undergone multiple surgeries and physical therapy. Her hope is to give hope to others in their trials. (Photos Courtesy Dunn family)

She said she felt she was in a dark place initially. The driven teenager, a state gymnastics competitor, high school soccer star, honor student who spoke at convocation for the high school class of 2020 was suddenly wrapped in bandages head to foot. Even her fingers were individually wrapped to protect from what is called “web finger,” a condition that affected burn survivors before modern burn therapy.
But even with the sadness and pain, Stephanie said, the first thing Teylor asked when she came out of induced coma was to use sign language to ask how Anthyn and Treyson were.
But other than that, and doing physical therapy and wound treatment, she stayed in her room with the lights off and the blinds closed. “Let me wallow,” Teylor recalled, chuckling with tears.
Then she met Becky. The adult woman in the burn unit had been there since her own accident in July. They saw one another daily in physical therapy.
“Every day without fail she said hi. Every day in her room, she always waved. She was persistently kind and positive.”
When Becky was discharged, she came into Teylor’s room with fake flowers she’d had in her room. (Real flowers aren’t allowed in burn units.) She gave them to the young woman.
Teylor never saw her again. It wasn’t until later she learned Becky had lost her husband and baby daughter in a plane crash in West Valley City, Utah, that left her and her 2-year-old badly burned. The news stunned Teylor.
“She lost so much more than me and she reached and touched me in a way no one else could. I was like, ‘Man, am I going to still wallow?’ That opened my eyes to the selflessness that could be had.”
From that moment, Stephanie related, it was like a switch flipped in her daughter. Using her hands in a flipping motion, she said, “She went from inward to outward.”
There was a little girl, Eliza, who was burned. Teylor got her a stuffed animal. Teylor ordered a gift for another burn victim, Skylar, who passed away just weeks after getting the gift – a Bluetooth speaker to listen to her favorite music.
And Teylor maintained the sense of humor for which she’s known. She asked nurses to share their favorite song playlists. Some music “was interesting,” she said, laughing. One day after hearing a certain playlist, she whispered to her mom, “I don’t think I’ll ask her to play her music again.”
“Teylor is still Teylor,” Stephanie wrote on CaringBridge, a website for those on journeys of hardship and illness.
Just after being discharged on September 29, 2020, the Dunns were sitting at a Red Lobster. Looking around, she turned to her mom. “’No one here knows what I’m going through.’ I just felt this overwhelming need to always be kind because you never know what they’re going through. It’s so important to be a light, to love everyone.”
It’s the little things, Teylor added. Even if you just tell someone, “I like your shoes.”
The Dunns wish to thank family, friends and the Star Valley community for much more than shoes. For family and friends who cared for the Dunn boys while Shawn and Stephanie were in Salt Lake City. For the meals and acts of service, for the person who left two backpacks of school supplies on the porch for Cash and Zane.
Not long ago, Teylor was asked to meet with the father of a young burn victim. After talking with her for some time, he said, “Teylor, you’ve given me hope.”
Maybe that’s this young woman’s message – hope in God, hope in good people, hope in a future.
“Miracles aren’t dead. I believe that.”
— For more information on Teylor Dunn’s story, see www.teylortough.org and www.caringbridge.org.

Let us know what you think!
+1
10
+1
95
+1
3
+1
0
+1
0
+1
0
Share