by Maggie Judi
Sometimes success is just surviving every day. Especially when you are a mother. But maybe most especially when you are the mother of a little boy fighting for his life.
Hollie Davis Warner graduated from San Juan High in 1998, growing up in Blanding and spending her childhood exploring the canyons, mountains, and the river near Mexican Hat, where her grandfather, Bill Davis, owned the trading post.
Those early exploits led to the development of a lifelong passion for adventure that has extended itself into her parenting.
Hollie is the mother of four young boys, including Teagan 10, Brixton 8, Datthyn 6, and Trexton 4. She homeschools the boys and the freedom of that arrangement allows her to take her boys and the classroom outside.
The family has always loved camping. Last year, in the waning days of summer on August 2, 2015 the Warner family took their boys to camp in the Uinta Mountains with some friends.
One night, as the family and their neighbors were getting the kids ready for bed, a spark jumped from the fire and ignited Teagan’s fleece pajamas.
Hollie quickly sprang into action with stop, drop, and roll technique, but the fleece was resistant to efforts to douse the flames. Finally freeing Teagan from the PJs, the Warners could see that Teagan was in trouble.
They left the other kids in the care of their friends and raced down the mountain from Mirror Lake to Evanston, Wyoming, a drive of nearly an hour. Hollie speaks incredulously of the experience, recalling the details with care.
“In my head… I’m looking at him, I can see his skin peeling off, I can see burns, but Teag is calm. To me, it’s just a little burn. ‘They are gonna put some cream on it, we’ll be at the hospital a couple days and we’ll go home.’”
Hollie was able to stay calm, which calmed Chris, Teagan’s, and eased the terrifying situation somewhat.
But when the First Responders got to them, “their eyes about popped out of his head,” recalls Hollie.
The EMT’s name was Eric and he looked at Hollie and calmly and firmly said, “We need to have Life Flight ready.”
Hollie responded, “Is it bad?”
Eric said, as kindly as possible, “He’s going to spend some time in the ICU burn unit.”
Hollie’s motherly instincts continued, “I held it together because I didn’t want Teagan to see me cry. We loaded up in the ambulance, and I held Teagan on my lap.”
When they got to the hospital, they briefed Hollie on Life Flight procedures and that was when the realization that her son was hurt badly sunk in.
The next morning he was doing really well. They had him up walking. He was eating. Teagan watched them clean his skin, put in IV’s all the while making the nurses explain every step before they could touch him.
The initial effort of his body to heal began to fade, and the next night, Teagan’s body started to fail. He was having a hard time getting rid of all the fluids building up in his system and was losing blood circulation.
Early the next morning, things got so bad that the staff made Hollie leave the room. “That was when I honestly didn’t know if he was going to make it.”
Little Teagan was coding every time they tried to move him or help him. “They couldn’t lift up his pinky without him just dropping.”
They put chest tubes in both sides of his chest and he went into a coma. “I sat outside in the waiting room by myself, just waiting for news.”
At noon, they finally let Teagan’s parents back to see their little boy fighting for his life connected to tubes and machines. Those were dark days as Teagan fought to live.
Many people prayed for the little boy and followed his achingly slow recovery via his mother’s updates on a page she created to keep loved ones informed, called Teag is Tough.
He got pancreatitis, pneumonia, blood infections, and more.
Teagan and his Mom were in the hospital for seven weeks and met other buddies in the burn unit.
“You really are in survival mode when you’re there, not knowing what to expect.”
Hollie adds that the other burn victims and survivors they met ”kinda just helped carry us.”
Within a week of being there, the comatose little boy underwent surgeries to clean off his burned skin, and graft cadaver skin, as well as his own skin, to his burned body.
Teag’s tough body wasn’t receptive to the skin however and seven weeks after the grafts, the doctors came back and told Hollie they would have to start all over. It was a devestating blow, but again Hollie and Teag rallied with positivity.
After the second round of grafting was done, it took, and Teag was stronger and able to heal better.
Teagan continues to heal a year removed from the tragedy that took normalcy from him and his family. He recently had a surgery to remove scar tissue from his throat, a procedure that should help him eat and breathe easier.
He is on seven medication every day to help with the brutal itching and nerve pain that comes with healing skin. All of them have side effects that Hollie has to manage with other meds and therapies.
Teag has major scars covering his legs and part of his back. But invisible to the eye are the scars that produce anxiety around anything that makes heat, including stoves, cooktops, and especially fire.
Most of the time he can handle the radically different body he now inhabits, but he is plagued with questions about what happened and why.
These questions make for days that Hollie didn’t anticipate, but which she handles with her signature resilience. Hollie answers these questions daily, sometimes minute by minute.
She calms his fears, and answers each question with patience. Reminding him of all he has to be happy about even when in the midst of great pain.
Of this awesome feat, Hollie says, “If we can teach our kids to do that, then it’s a little easier to get up in the morning and face those days.”
The Warner family has used this tragedy to help other parents with camping safety, including highlighting the dangers of wearing fleece pajamas. See the story on KSL.
With all of this on her plate, Hollie is brutally real when asked about her life now. “I try not to sugar coat, because so many people say, ‘You’re inspiring, you’re amazing, you help me be a better person, I wish I could be the mom you’re being.’
“I’m like, ‘No no, you are! In your own way. We don’t give ourselves (as mothers and women) enough credit. I’m not trying to be super mom, I’m just trying to get through one day.”
Hollie continues, “It’s a choice of how we deal with it. I could choose to be bitter, mad, and angry and you know what, I have those moments where I am bitter and mad and angry, but it doesn’t stay there.
“I don’t want to live my life unhappy, I don’t want to provide a life for my kids that is unhappy. I want to say to them, ‘We are going to face this, we are going to continue to face this and it’s going to be a battle for our life.’
“Our life will forever be before the accident and after the accident, there can be good and bad in that, but it is also a reflection of growth and if we don’t recognize that we can’t grow from it.”
Teag is super blessed with a wise mother. This spring, Hollie purchased a new trailer to reintroduce her family to the hobby that once gave them so many great memories. She hopes to replace the nightmare with new happier memories.
She took the boys to hike in Mesa Verde National Park this spring. Teagan also got to spend some much needed time this summer at a burn camp for kids. It was the healing balm his soul needs to be with other kids who face the same obstacles he does everyday.
A Go Fund Me account has been set up to raise money to send Teagan, his parents and his brothers to another camp. It’s called a “burn congress” and will provide a variety of services that Teagan desperately needs to navigate the rest of his life.
For Hollie Warner, motherhood has taken on an extreme form: surviving everyday. But I would say she is not surviving, she and her boys are thriving.
It’s not so much about the battles the Warners are facing, but about the WAY in which they face them that provides so much inspiration to the legion of Teag fans.
You know what, Teag is Tough, and so is his Mom.
Please consider a donation to help send Teagan and his family to burn congress. You can donate at their Go Fund Me site.