A woman has told of how she was cruelly called ‘a zombie’ after suffering horrific burns to her face when she fell head first into a campfire.
Primary school teacher Halie Tennant, 29, said she felt she had “lost her identity”, and recalled how she asked her husband to love her “no matter what”.
And she said the coronavirus pandemic had heightened her ordeal, as she was only allowed one visitor for one hour each day during a long recovery process after surgery.
Halie, from Hotspur in Victoria, Australia, had gone on a spontaneous camping trip with a friend, but it turned into a nightmare when she dozed off in a camping chair, according to Yahoo.
Her friend, who had fallen asleep in her swag, a portable sleeping unit, awoke to a murmuring noise, and to her horror found Halie lying head first in the campfire, making no attempt to move.
She pulled Halie out of the fire – almost certainly saving her life – and poured ice cold water on her face to ease the burns.
Halie has no recollection of how she ended up in the fire, but believes the chair must have tipped while she was sleeping in it.
The pair then drove back to Halie’s home less than two kilometres away, where her husband Matthew tried to cool her burns as much as possible by running cold water over her face, while an ambulance, an intensive care ambulance and a helicopter made their way to the scene.
Halie was rushed to the intensive care unit at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, where she was immediately put in a coma.
After being in a coma for eight days, Halie was moved to the burns ward to begin her long recovery.
She has spent more than two-and-a-half months in hospital and has gone under the knife six times – including to remove damaged skin and to have skin grafts to her face, neck, eyelids and mouth.
Amazingly, Halie says she doesn’t recall feeling any pain after falling into the fire – although she does remember the agony of fearing her husband’s reaction.
“I don’t remember any pain,” she said. “I remember asking Mathew to love me no matter what and him saying, ‘yes’.”
She said Matthew, her mum and her dad took turns to visit while she was in intensive care, describing the limited visiting hours due to Covid as “the hardest part” of her recovery.
After being released from hospital, she had to be readmitted around 10 days later as her eyelids were not touching – and then surgeons had to operate on her further as her mouth couldn’t open enough for her to eat from a fork or spoon.
But she said worse than any of that was the feeling of not knowing who she was any more – which was cruelly exacerbated by a callous taunt from a complete stranger.
“The hardest thing was losing my identity,” said Halie. “I’m not a vain person, but your face and its characteristics are important in how you recognise yourself. Not knowing who you are any more is a hard thing to come to terms with.
“The only comment I have received in person outside the hospital was a man walking past and he told me ‘you look like a zombie’ and kept walking.”
Halie thanked her husband Matthew, her friends and her parents for their support during a life-changing ordeal.
She said she is now unable to work or drive, but courageously said the episode had given her “a better outlook on life” and was determined to think positively.