Gilbert mom makes tremendous progress after being severely burned at August wedding

A Gilbert mother of four has made amazing progress after being severely burned at a summer wedding in Minnesota.
Published: Dec. 22, 2022 at 8:24 PM MST
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CHANDLER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — Nearly four months ago, a Gilbert mother of four was horrifically burned at a wedding, unsure how livable life would be after the accident. Now, just before Christmas, she opened up for the first time about what happened and showed Arizona’s Family her progress, strides many thought she’d never be able to make.

The gym has always been a second home to Tami Chmielewski, but her workouts mean something different now. “It was Aug. 28,” Chmielewski said. That was the day her life changed. “It’s tough to talk about,” she said.

She was at a wedding in Minnesota and a group was huddled around an open fire. She could never have expected what would happen next. “There was a chemical that was poured onto the fire and unfortunately, it got on me,” Chmielewski said. “I remember yelling for someone to just pull my clothes off of me.”

She spent 63 days in a Minnesota burn unit and another week in a Phoenix hospital. She has third-degree burns from her abs down to her feet, and other parts of her body were used to graft skin. The mental trauma was just as devastating. “Am I going to lose my legs? Am I going to lose my feet? Will I walk again?” Chmielewski said with tears in her eyes.

She would do more than walk because she found a new second home at the MOVE Human Performance Center in Chandler, where they help burn survivors with rehab and physical therapy. Day one: Chmielewski felt for the first time. There was hope. “I feel like I’m human again. I was moving, doing all kinds of stuff. It felt so good,” she said.

Her physical progress is tremendous while still working on her mental progress at the same time. “I still physically can’t get myself to touch my legs,” Chmielewski said. She has her family cheering her on. “If I didn’t have my kids, I don’t know what I would do. I have four amazing kids, a grandbaby, and another on the way,” she said.

While she still can’t drive or shower alone, her sister has put her life on hold to help. “If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know what I would do,” Chmielewski said. So, when you combine the physical coaching with the emotional support from her family, no burns can take away the gift of love and the gift of life this Christmas. “They make me feel alive, and like I’m Tami again,” she said. Chmielewski will continue going to physical therapy three days a week, and her advice to other burn survivors is whatever you do, don’t stop.