Courtney Waldon, a young mom from Tallapoosa, Georgia, was left disfigured after suffering fourth-degree burns on her face and third-degree burns on her hands, feet, and legs in September of 2016. Then, after undergoing numerous surgeries and spending several weeks at the hospital, her husband of just two months abandoned her and her 5-year-old daughter, Caroline.
Now, almost 10 months to the day of the campfire accident that changed her life, Waldon says that she is stronger than ever and that Caroline inspires her to live.
“I’m so grateful for how far I’ve come,” Courtney told People.
“I’m getting stronger every day to prove to everybody that I can be a fit mother and do everything I could with her before the accident.”
Twenty-seven-year-old Waldon was reportedly grilling a dinner of tuna steaks and asparagus over a campfire outside her home when the accident happened. According to Good Housekeeping, she was sitting near the fire and looking at her phone when her then-husband got up and swung a can of gasoline to relight the fire. Some of the gas got on Courtney. She was immediately engulfed in flames.
“I stopped, dropped and rolled while screaming bloody murder. I thought I was dying.”
Courtney was later informed that had it not been for her home’s proximity to the local hospital, she would have died that day. Waldon spent 30 days in an induced coma and has since undergone 20 surgeries. She will have to go through at least a dozen more in the years to come.
Two weeks after Courtney returned home from the hospital, her then-husband informed her that he couldn’t “handle or deal with” the situation and was thus leaving her.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” Waldon 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.”
Thankfully, 5-year-old Caroline’s reaction to her mom’s new reality was more positive. Because the little girl was asleep when the fire happened, she didn’t see Courtney’s new face until more than 50 days later, when her mom first came home from the hospital. Waldon’s parents told the child that her mom had had an accident and that she was recuperating at the hospital.
“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.”
“It’s been really hard on her. She knows that things will never be the same,” Waldon added.
As she recovers from her burns and waits for more surgeries to fix her fingers, neck, and face, Courtney tries to spend as much time with Caroline as she can. The two, who are currently staying with Waldon’s parents, spend their days playing, swimming, and feeding the cows on the family’s farm. Despite their new circumstances, the bond between Courtney and Caroline remains strong. When Waldon recently surprised her daughter at school, Caroline reportedly grabbed her hand and introduced her to her classmates.
“This is my mommy. She’s been burned,” the little girl said.
“After my husband left, that was also hard on her. She thought I had abandoned her when I was at the hospital, and then she thought he abandoned her too,” Courtney recalled.
“I told her that he burnt mommy and that life would be better for [us] without him. And it has been.”
Because she is currently unable to work and might never be able to return to work, Waldon was forced out of her home. Friends and family are trying to raise funds to build Courtney and Caroline a house and to pay for her upcoming surgeries. As of writing, a GoFundMe fundraiser set up for Courtney has surpassed its goal of raising $200,000. In addition, the Refuge Ministries of West Georgia is building a home for her and Caroline on her parents’ property. Updates on Courtney’s progress are posted on her Facebook page, “Courtney’s Comeback,” where volunteers can also sign up to help with the construction of her house.
[Featured Image by Facebook/Courtney Waldon]