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“I lost a year and a half of my life,” he said. “I’m making up for it.”

Last fall, Daniel Deagan, his girlfriend, and their two dogs moved into a new house. He owns three restaurants (two in Lakewood and one in Cleveland) and plans on opening three more this year. He’s looking forward to an annual golf trip with friends – this year is the 10th anniversary – and marking his 50th birthday this year.

“I lost a year and a half of my life,” he said. “I’m making up for it.”

It has been a long 19 months for Dan, whose world changed in an instant on July 4, 2022.

Late that night, a fire engulfed the house Dan had moved in three weeks earlier with his girlfriend, Jackie Ramey. Jackie had been sleeping in the basement with the dogs to shield them from the sound of fireworks. They escaped unharmed.

Dan did not. Awakened by thick smoke, he was trapped in a second-floor bedroom – unable to see, barely able to breathe. The Westlake firefighters who had quickly arrived on the scene made their way to the door. They couldn’t enter the room because of the extreme heat so they called out Dan’s name – and were surprised when they heard him respond. They didn’t think anyone could still be alive.

After being guided out of the room and down the stairs, Dan was grabbed by other firefighters who were waiting. They dragged him outside and wrapped him in a fire blanket.

Dan sustained second and third-degree burns to half of his body. Initially, he didn’t realize the extent of his injuries. He hadn’t felt any pain at the house. Only after he emerged from sedation in the Burn Center’s ICU at MetroHealth Medical Center did Jackie tell him.

Dan spent a month at MetroHealth. He says he remembers the care he received from the Burn Center ICU’s nursing team.

“I didn’t feel like I was just a patient to them,” he said. “I could tell they genuinely cared. They knew they were going to cause me the worst pain I had ever had in my life.”

He remembers the agony of the first few cleaning and dressing changes to his burns to prevent infections, but somehow not the actual details of the pain.

“I know what I went through, but your mind has a way of blocking out how much it hurts,” he said.

After a month in the Burn ICU, the next step was supposed to be two weeks of inpatient rehabilitation. But Dan – anxious to get out of the hospital and settle into the rented house where Jackie and the dogs were waiting for him – opted out. He promised his doctors that he would do exercises, suggested by the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation staff, on his own at home.

The next couple of weeks were filled with repeat trips to the Burn ICU for dressing changes. After about six weeks, the burns were as healed as they would get. He would continue to wear compression sleeves over most of his body for the next several months.

As soon as he was discharged, Dan started physical therapy at the MetroHealth Rehabilitation Institute’s Main Campus location to regain strength and range of motion. He had sustained severe burns on the palms of his hands while crawling on a ceramic tile floor trying to escape the house. During physical therapy, the results of a grip test registered Dan’s strength as equal to that of an 85-year-old man.

“I can’t do this,” he thought. “I felt so weak.”

But he kept at it. With his sessions winding down toward the end of the year, Dan’s grip strength was measured one last time: His strength had greatly improved, but he still wasn’t where he was before the fire.

So, he continued working out on his own at the gym.

About a month after leaving the hospital, Dan began getting laser treatments not only to help lessen the appearance of his scars but also to relieve the accompanying pain and discomfort. His last treatment was in May 2023.

Other than the scars (“They’re a reminder that I’m still here,” he said.), Dan says he isn’t dealing with any long-term physical or mental effects from the fire, which appeared to have originated in a trash can on the back porch and was ruled accidental.

Even so, he said, “I don’t think that chapter will ever close.”

In June 2023, Dan and a group of friends attended the Resiliency Run where he received the Survivor Award. MetroHealth created the Resiliency Run in 2017 to honor the strength and resiliency of our trauma and burn survivors.

Whenever Dan is at the hospital for an appointment, he makes time to stop by the Burn Unit to say hello to the people who cared for him for a month. MetroHealth is one of only two adult and pediatric burn centers in Ohio verified by the American Burn Association.

Dan and Jackie moved into a new home last fall.

“We ended up buying a bunch of fire blankets and extinguishers,” he said. “The day we moved in, we had our security system hooked up to the fire department.”
The precautions were to make sure they were prepared in case anything like that happened again.
“If there’s anything I fear, it’s the fear of not being prepared,” he said. “It’s less for me and more for making sure everyone else is safe.”

Burn Care Center

MetroHealth is one of only two burn centers in Ohio verified for the care of both adults and children by the American Burn Association and the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma.
Visit our website for more information about the MetroHealth Burn Care Center or call: