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Burn survivor proposes to girlfriend at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital

Posted at 10:55 AM, Jun 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-06 07:58:19-04

INDIANAPOLIS — 47 days removed from one life-altering event, Chris Doyen created another one, a happier one, that he and his now-fiance Erika Tollett will cherish forever.

It was just back in early to mid-April when Chris and Erika were standing near a campfire when a nearby gas can had exploded. Chris received 2nd and 3rd degree burns to 66% of his body, including his arms, torso, and legs. Chris's recovery was expected to take around four months, but thanks in large part to the burn unit at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital and Chris's own personal motivation, his recovery is ahead of schedule.

"The staff. Yeah they pushed me pretty hard. And I don’t want to be here, so I want to be back home," said (Chris) Doyen.

"For him to go from his injury to leaving the hospital in under 50 days is quite remarkable. He’s done a great job of following the program and getting healed up and our team has done a remarkable job getting him back and healthy and actually discharging him from the hospital today,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs, Director of the Ascension St. Vincent Burn Unit.

Fast forward nearly two months from that tragic accident, to a treatment room in the Burn ICU in the hospital where Erika has been by Chris's bedside every day since, Chris proposed to Erika in front of family and staff in the hydrotherapy room, where Burn ICU staff even created and decorated a special padded stool for Chris to be able to kneel on to propose. The staff swapped out the medical equipment for balloons, streamers, photos of the couple, paper lanterns, confetti, and gold letters spelling “I Love You.” Ascension St. Vincent’s food service team also sent up cake pops, drinks, and other treats to help the family celebrate.

"It felt like it was the right time and place. Especially with all she’s been through." "In sickness and in health", Chris added as the venue seemed fitting for the proposal as they prepare for their "happily ever after" life together.

Erika agreed - “Because we’ve gone through this together I think and we’ll continue to go through it together. And being able to be here as he goes home. It’s perfect,” she laughed. Erika added on her response to the moment, "Shocked. Very shocked. Excited he’s coming home, but shocked so I think it’s all going to hit later." said Erika Tollett.

“I spent a lot of time with his family while they were here and got to know them very well. They’re great people. I’m just really happy for them. Now they’re going home with their son but going home with their son and daughter too,” said Dr. Gibbs. “Our motto here is keeping families together and now it’s going to be keeping families together and creating new ones.”

The Ascension St. Vincent Burn Unit treats both pediatric and adult patients as part of its Level 1 Trauma Center. Patients stay on-site for procedures and are treated by burn surgeons, trauma surgeons, and plastic surgeons on-site. Chris Doyel was discharged from the hospital Friday and is finishing his recovery at home, with his new fiance.