It was September of 2016 and Courtney Waldon, her daughter Caroline and her husband were out camping in the woods. It was an enjoyable night as Courtney and her husband sat around the campfire as their daughter slept. When the fire went out Courtney’s husband poured gasoline on the embers in the hopes of keeping the fire going, however tragedy was right around the corner.
When he poured the gasoline on the fire, the flame immediately erupted and Courtney was engulfed in flames.
When he put the gas on it, the fire shot up and next thing I know I was in gold shivering flames.
It was a pain beyond anything we could imagine as Courtney desperately tried anything and everything she could think to stop the fire.
I was just going crazy. I did just stop, drop and rolled and screamed. I didn’t know what to do so I ran towards the water hose.
Fortunately, not long after the ambulance arrived and Courtney was rushed to the hospital.On the ride to the hospital Courtney did the only thing she thought would help: she prayed to God.
She thought she was going to die because she was in so much immense pain.Courtney spent the next 51 days in the ICU burn unit under constant care and supervision. She wasn’t even able to see her daughter Caroline or her husband. She was alone for the majority of her hospital stay.
She went under the knife for countless surgeries and she even had to go into physical therapy so that she could relearn how to live life.The fire had caused over 40 percent of her body to be permanently burned. She would never live her life the same way ever again.
I went from being the very pretty girl, just married, had my life in order, to barely being able to dress myself and needing help for everything and having to learn how to do things over again.
Courtney’s woes were only beginning however when she was finally released from the hospital.Just a short two weeks after she was released her husband abandoned her and their 5-year-old daughter Caroline. According to the husband, he could no longer ‘handle her.
’ Courtney was devastated when the man who promised to help her in sickness and in health had left her when she needed him most.She was now a single mother, who could barely feed herself, stranded alone with a tidal wave of medical bills on the horizon.
It was not a situation Courtney could have possibly prepared for.
It was a slap in the face when my husband left me. I tried and begged him to come back, my daughter didn’t deserve it.
Due to her condition, Courtney was unable to find a job and she fears she may never be able to work again.Courtney and her daughter Caroline were quickly left homeless as they were unable to pay their bills without any income and they reached out to family members in the hopes that someone, anyone, would be able to help house them.
Thankfully, Courtney’s parents reached out and helped Courtney.They were able to house her temporarily, but the situation wasn’t ideal for Courtney and Caroline.
Courtney’s parents weren’t the only ones who wished to help her, though. The local church run by Jon Ellis, the pastor of Refuge Ministries of West Georgia heard Courtney’s story and was immediately touched. He asked many of her friends and relatives what they thought she needed most. The answer was unanimous, Courtney needed a home of her own the most. Soon, he gathered others to help start an effort to help create a home for her once more.
The result of their planning, hard work and donations is a beautiful 2-bedroom home that is undergoing the final touches to the interior before Courtney will be able to live in it with her daughter Caroline.
The home is thanks to the local community banding together not only to raise funds but also with many volunteers lending a helping hand to help build it.It was truly a community effort to make sure that Courtney would get some semblance of their life back.
The home has not only been a huge relief for Courtney, but it has also given her some of her confidence back. Courtney has become increasingly anxious out in public as she gets stares constantly when she is buying groceries or just walking throughout town. It’s been difficult, but thanks to the community’s effort she knows that there are still people who will still have her back.
I get stared at constantly like I am a monster. People just make rude comments. But it’s okay. I am stronger than they are. I get through it.
Thanks to the community support, support from her parents and her unstoppable spirit, Courtney is slowly rebuilding her life. Everyday she finds strength in her daughter Caroline to keep pushing no matter how tough the obstacles lay ahead. She is progressing quickly through her physical therapy and just recently regained motor control in her hands.
There were definitely times I wanted to give up, but I had to think of my daughter. They didn’t bring her to the hospital, so the first time I saw her was when I came home. They brought her over and she was very hesitant and very stand-offish. Then when she heard my voice she came over and gave me a hug. She’s been amazing. When I was having trouble learning to walk she would tell me to hold her hand.
However what best explains Courtney is the tattoo that she now has on her forearm which says
I survived because the fire inside of me burned brighter than the fire around me.