A mom whose husband abandoned their family weeks after she was horribly disfigured in a campfire accident believes his reaction was a blessing in disguise.
27-year-old Courtney Waldon still remembers the pain of the fire hitting her face when she was involved in a horrific campfire accident on September 30, 2016.
Waldon was using Facebook on her phone and didn’t notice that a bit of gas had splashed onto her clothes when her husband of two months got up to relight their fire.
Moments later, she was completely engulfed in flames.
“I stopped, dropped and rolled while screaming bloody murder,” Waldon of Tallapoosa, Georgia, told PEOPLE. “I thought I was dying.”
Waldon, who has a 5-year-old daughter named Caroline, miraculously survived the horrific accident, but she was left with fourth-degree burns all over her face and body.
“My hands got so burnt because I was trying to put out my face,” she says. “I felt every inch of my flesh burning off that night.”
The burns were so bad that doctors said Waldon certainly would have died if the ambulance had arrived even a minute later.
“They said if the ambulance arrived one minute later I wouldn’t have made it,” Waldon said. “I just started praying to God in the ambulance.”
Waldon had to be placed in an induced coma for 30 days. When she finally woke up 51 days after the fire, her whole life had changed.
“I just wanted my daughter,” she said. “She’s the reason I live.”
As she got closer to returning home, Waldon’s family prepared Caroline for her mother’s jarring appearance.
“They said, ‘Mommy got badly burned and she will never look the same,’ ” she 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.”
Although Waldon managed to stay positive in the hospital, she was left heartbroken when she returned home and learned that her husband was leaving her.
“Two weeks after being home from the hospital my husband left us,” she said. “He said he couldn’t handle or deal with me any longer.”
But even in the midst of such a terrible situation, Waldon has managed to see the positive in everything.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” said Waldon. “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.”
Waldon is now using her unbelievable story to inspire others to continue moving forward, no matter what might be going on in their lives.
“I shouldn’t be here but I am,” Waldon 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.
“God saved my life and now I have work to do on earth to help others. I received a message three days ago from a lady who said she didn’t kill herself because of my story,” she added.
“Whether it be burns, a car wreck or even if it’s just that someone’s husband cheated on them,” she continued. “That’s my goal.”