Bonnie Milby tightly grasped a tarnished silver cross Monday. The cross was all David Milby — her husband of 20 years — was wearing when he arrived at the Integris Health Burn Center. David Milby, an Iowa Tribe volunteer firefighter, remained on a ventilator at the Oklahoma City hospital four days after he was caught in a wall of flames while fighting a wildfire last week near Wellston. He underwent surgery Monday to prepare his arms for skin grafts. He was burned over 26 percent of his body, with second- and third-degree burns on his face, arms and back. "It’s the worst roller-coaster ride,” said Bonnie Milby of Stillwater. "You hurry over to get to see him and you have to wait.” She said she spends as much time as hospital staff will let her, standing at her husband’s bedside rubbing the top of his head — a spot the flames didn’t touch. She talks to him and prays. She waits for the swelling of her husband’s burned face to go down. "I read him cards and tell him who has been here,” she said. "He is pretty well sedated.” David Milby, 60, remains in critical condition. Rocky Salim of Edmond, his stepson for 20 years, said the swelling of his face has gone down a great deal since Friday, when he was almost unrecognizable. "He has been really fortunate,” Bonnie Milby said quietly, her eyes closed. David Milby, the tribe’s fire training officer, and his partner and driver, Jeff Bayhylle, became stuck in a field Thursday and couldn’t flee the flames that blew over them and their brush rig. Bayhylle was treated for injuries and released from the hospital Thursday. David Milby’s eyes were protected by his goggles. "His face is responding to medical treatment,” his wife said. "I would have felt better if it had not burned his face. His arms are pretty badly burned.” The recovery will be long. He is expected to be in the burn center at least a month, his stepson said. Salim called his stepfather tough. "I know he is going to make it,” Salim said. "Everyone is pleased with his progress. He is doing as well as expected. "I wonder about his quality of life. We are taking one day at a time, but that kind of stuff runs around in the back of your mind.”
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