Twisp River Fire victim expected to have full recovery
By Marcy Stamper
After two months in intensive care and 10 skin grafts, firefighter Daniel Lyon has reached a significant milestone — he has been moved to a rehab unit where he is resuming some normal activities, including walking unaided and even eating pizza, as long as food is cut into small pieces.
Lyon, who was severely burned in the first hours of the Twisp River Fire on Aug. 19, was moved to a special burn-rehab unit at Harborview Medical Center on Tuesday (Oct. 20), according to Susan Gregg, a hospital spokesperson.
“He’s doing a lot better than anyone has expected,” said Koreena Haynes, the family liaison between Lyon and his family and the U.S. Forest Service. “He was in very critical condition.”
Lyon’s skin grafts are regenerating and he is progressing really well, said Haynes. His condition has been upgraded to satisfactory, according to Gregg.
Lyon, who can walk and do exercises, is undergoing an intense rehabilitation program for range of movement and to keep his skin elastic, said Haynes. Making sure the skin grafts remain flexible and do not form scar tissue is essential. The exercises are extremely painful, but his fitness level and age have aided in his recovery, said Haynes.
Lyon also requires at least an hour of daily wound care, but that is down from three to four hours a day while he was in intensive care.
Physicians expect Lyon, age 25, will make a complete recovery, meaning he can function in a work setting, do activities he enjoys and expect normal social relations, said Haynes. He has no lasting damage to his vision and his lungs are healing well.
Lyon will have some limitations in hand movement because doctors had to remove the tips of nine of his fingers to the first knuckle.
Lyon will be able to choose the type of work he wants to do, said Haynes. He talks about returning to police work or firefighting, and that drive is central to his recovery. “He’s so young and so motivated — he can do what he wants to do,” she said.
This summer was Lyon’s first season as a firefighter with the Forest Service. Before that, he worked for several months as a volunteer reserve officer with the police force in Milton, Washington.
Now that he’s in rehab, Lyon is receiving less pain medication, which has made him more alert. That awareness has led to questions about the circumstances surrounding his injuries and about his colleagues on the fire crew.
After the wind shifted 180 degrees a few hours after the fire started, Lyon and three other firefighters tried to escape the fast-moving fire, but their engine went off the road, according to reports of the accident. Lyon, who was found some distance from the vehicle, was the only survivor, but he sustained severe burns to 60 percent of his body.
Lyon is still mourning the loss of his friends and colleagues, but his emotional recovery is coming along, said Haynes. Questions about why he was the one who got out are mingled with his appreciation that he is alive, she said.
“He knew something traumatic happened to him,” said Haynes. “He’d been on so much pain medication, but when his mind cleared, he started putting the pieces of the puzzle together,” she said. Lyon’s comprehension of the situation is “very, very recent” and he still has significant gaps in his memory.
Physicians expect Lyon will be in the rehab unit for another several weeks but hope he can go home with his parents before Thanksgiving, said Haynes. Once home, he will continue rigorous rehab with therapists for another year and ultimately progress to rehab he can do on his own, she said.
Lyon can now have visitors in the evenings, although visits must be scheduled through the family liaison. He appreciates visitors but must guard against becoming overwhelmed, said Haynes.
Lyon and his parents have been “speechless” about all the help they’ve received from the Methow Valley, the Forest Service and beyond. “It’s really touching,” said Haynes.
Haynes, a fire captain with the Forest Service now based in Sedro-Woolley, used to work in the Methow Valley and still knows many people in the local ranger district. She noted that one retired Forest Service staffer here raised money to pay the kennel that has been caring for Lyon’s dog, which was staying with his parents until he was injured. “He is very excited to see his dog when he gets back,” said Haynes.
Letters and cards can be sent to Daniel Lyon, care of Harborview Medical Center, Medic One, 325 Ninth Ave., Room 2 CT99, Box 359727, Seattle, WA 98104. He can also receive emails through the Harborview website at www.uwmedicine.org/patient-resources/email-patient.
People interested in scheduling a visit with Lyon must contact Haynes at (360) 854-2645 or email@example.com.