Warning: This article contains images some readers may find disturbing.
On September 30, 2016, 27-year-old Courtney Waldon was grilling some asparagus over the fire with her husband. When the flames began to die down, he fetched some gasoline to revive them. While pouring the flammable liquid on the fire, tiny drops accidentally sprinkled onto Courtney’s face. The hungry flames rapidly engulfed her whole body. The young mother screamed in agony, rolling around on the floor and shouting out to her husband to call 911. At that moment, it seemed like the fire was going to melt every inch of her skin. The ambulance arrived within a few minutes and it was because of the paramedics’ quick response that her life was saved.
At the hospital, the tragic extent of Courtney’s injuries became apparent: she had third and fourth degree burns on her face, hands and legs. Her lips were swollen, her face disfigured and black. She was still alive, but there seemed to be little hope for her. Doctors put her into an induced coma to relieve the excruciating pain and worked hard to heal Courtney’s body.
Courtney was in a coma for 30 days, during which time her family took care of her daughter Caroline. Around 40% of Courtney’s body had been burned in the accident. She remained in hospital for 51 days, had over 20 reconstructive surgeries and ended up with a debt of U.S. $2 million. But it doesn’t end there, Courtney will still have to undergo 12 more surgical procedures, each one costing US$11,000.
When Courtney was finally able to go home, her daughter was very supportive and told her how much she had missed her. Her husband, on the other hand, left her a few weeks later. The reason: he could not handle living with his wife’s condition. Suddenly, not only could Courtney barely move, but she did not have a husband nor a job to fall back on. She ended up losing her home and having to move in with her parents.
Courtney hit rock bottom. She needed to have more surgery, learn how to move her fingers again, take care of her daughter and, above all, learn to accept and love herself again. She remembers looking at herself in the mirror for the first and nearly fainting. “I went from being the pretty, newlywed girl whose life was in order to being someone who could barely dress myself and needed help to do anything,” Courtney said.
But life still had an amazing surprise in store for Courtney and Caroline. Their community in Tallapoosa, Georgia, was so touched by their story they decided to help … and built them a house! This gift is an amazing demonstration of love and solidarity and has moved thousands of people.
Soon, mother and daughter will be able to move in and focus all their energy on Courtney’s recovery.
You can learn more about Courtney’s story in the video below:
With a new home, a strong support system, her parents and, most importantly, her daughter behind her, Courtney is sure she can overcome anything. Her face will never look the same again, but she is convinced she survived for a reason and that is more important than her appearance. Courtney now wants to help other survivors of traumatic events and show them it is possible to move on. What an incredibly strong young woman!