Last September, 27 year old Courtney Waldon from Tallapoosa, Georgia, suffered devastating burns to her face and body following a campfire accident involving gasoline. Then, just weeks after returning home from a 51-day stay in the hospital, her husband abandoned her and her 5 year old daughter. Now, she’s speaking out about the tragic accident, her recovery and her new ambitions. On September 30, 2016, the young mom was sitting near a campfire looking at her phone while cooking tuna steak and asparagus. When her then husband of two months got up to throw some gas on the campfire to relight it, some of it got on Courtney, and she suddenly found herself engulfed in flames, according to People.
The nearly fatal accident resulted in fourth-degree burns on her face and third-degree burns on her hands, legs and feet. “I stopped, dropped and rolled while screaming bloody murder,” Courtney told People. “I thought I was dying.”Emergency responders told Courtney her proximity to the local hospital saved her life that day. “They said if the ambulance arrived one minute later I wouldn’t have made it,” she told People. “I just started praying to God in the ambulance.”
Courtney, mom to 5 year old daughter Caroline, spent 30 days in an induced coma, and then 21 more days recovering in the hospital. She’s since undergone 20 surgeries, and still has several more she must endure over the next few years. “I shouldn’t be here but I am,” she said. “I know that there are people out there who have it worse than I do. I’ve always been a believer that everything happens for a reason and I still believe that.”
Her family told Caroline about the accident just before Courtney returned home. “They said, ‘Mommy got badly burned and she will never look the same,’” Courtney said. “When I got home, she looked at me really weird and was standoffish. But then I said, ‘It’s me baby. It’s your momma.’ After that she came and gave me a hug. She hasn’t let go since.”
Two weeks after returning home from the hospital, Courtney’s husband told her he couldn’t “handle or deal with” her and left. “It was a blessing in disguise,” she said. “I think if he was around he would be holding me down. I wouldn’t be as strong as I am today and wouldn’t have made as much progress.”
Courtney is hopeful about her recovery and wants to work to help others. “God saved my life and now I have work to do on Earth to help others,” she said. “Whether it be burns, a car wreck or even if it’s just that someone’s husband cheated on them — that’s my goal.”
To help pay for her medical bills, loved ones set up a Go Fund Me fundraiser in hopes they can raise $200,000 for Courtney. The Refuge Ministries of West Georgia is also building a home for the mom and her daughter on Courtney’s parents’ property. You can make a donation to Courtney on GoFundMe.com, and follow her progress on her “Courtney’s Comeback” Facebook page, plus check out campfire safety tips here.