A WOMAN fell face-first into a raging fire leaving her with life-changing burns just days after suffering a miscarriage.
Halie Tennant was camping with a friend when she suddenly stumbled and fell into a fire, leaving her with devastating burns on her face, neck and parts of her chest.
The 29-year-old says she now no longer recognises her face, despite dozens of painful surgeries, skin grafts and months in recovery during lockdown.
To make the experience even more horrific, Halie – who lives with husband Mathew Tennant also 29, in Victoria, Australia – had suffered a miscarriage just one week earlier, but says she is still determined to have kids one day.
While grieving the loss of her unborn child in May, the former primary school teacher decided to go camping near her home in the hope of clearing her head.
But the decision would have devastating consequences.
“I was camping within sight of my house, alone,” Halie said.
“About 10pm, I had a weird gut feeling that I shouldn’t be alone, so I found phone reception and called my husband to send my friend Kenzie* down to join me.”
Halie and her pal sat around the fire, having an emotional conversation the tragic loss of her first child.
But moments later, she stood up and stumbled into the fire, with her face taking the full impact of the flames.
Halie, who had taken first aid training in her past job as a school teacher, frantically shouted at her friend to get ice water and pour it on her face.
Albeit panicked, Halie fought through the shock to tend to her wounds, with the pain yet to come as adrenaline surged through her veins.
The pair jumped into the car, rushing to get home so they could phone an ambulance.
Halie said: “Kenzie was honking the horn on the way up the driveway, to try and wake up my husband, and when the car stopped, I jumped out and ran inside, ripping off my jumper and shirt as I went.”
A severely-burned Halie threw herself into a freezing cold shower while her friend phoned for help and her husband rushed to her side.
At this point, her body started running out of adrenaline as she realised the severity of the situation – and the pain and fear set in.
She looked at Mathew, who was frantic with worry, asking if he would love her “no matter what”.
Halie said: “I only remember a few things after that, I knew I needed to secure my airway, so I got Kenzie to find a drink bottle lid that we could use to keep my mouth open, as I could feel my face swelling.
“I remember the heat in my face, being very scared, seeing my husband and feeling panicked and asking him ‘will you love me no matter what?’ and him saying ‘yes’.
The ambulance arrived and once with the doctors, Halie was placed in a coma and flown by helicopter to The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, where she stayed for two months.
During this time, she met with dozens of specialists but admits she still hadn’t processed what had happened to her, and had no idea that her face was now unrecognisable.
While she was recovering, her husband drove for hours each way, three times a week, to stay by her side.
Although grateful to have survived, once Halie saw her new face for the first time, she “felt numb”.
The burns survivor said: “The first time I saw myself, I just saw my eye and said that I still looked like me.
“It wasn’t until my psychologist told me to zoom in and have a proper look that I realised how much damage had been done.
“I honestly felt numb, like I was looking at someone else and I struggled to come to terms with my new reality.”
Halie sought out mental health support and currently has three different types of counselling to help her adjust to her new life and physical appearance.
But the accident has left her with severe mental health problems.
She said: “I have developed depression and my anxiety has gotten worse.
“I am full of hurt, anger, pain and grief and I hope one day it will not affect me so much.”
But it’s not just the mental pain that has affected the burns survivor, as since her tragic incident, she has also had to undergo countless operations; including allografting – transplanting an organ or tissue from one individual to another – and countless skin grafts and debridements, a procedure to treat her skin wounds.
Halie added: “The worst pain I remember is from my donor graft sites.
“My back was used to give me the skin on my face, neck and chest. I remember screaming through the morphine.
“I also burnt off all my pain receptors when I fell in and when they were growing back, the pain felt like burning needles being jabbed into my face.”
Halie may also need to undergo a nose job in coming months, as well as ‘release’ the corners of her eyes, neck and mouth in the future.
Despite feeling overcome with loneliness during her time in hospital during the pandemic, Halie tried to remain positive as much as possible – and credits much of this to the “amazing nurses and doctors”.
The survivor hopes that by sharing her heartbreaking story, she can help educate people about burns and “normalise the abnormal.”
As part of her effort, she’s been sharing her journey on Instagram and TikTok.
She also has high hopes for the future and plans on having children.
Halie said: “I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that things will get better. I have not lost hope, I’m just working through acceptance.
“I hope that my journey helps others to not feel alone and to know there is hope for the future.
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“To anyone else that is going through this, just hang on in there. Celebrate every little win, no matter how small.
“And seek help and support, they will help you become a better person. Life is worth living, so make the most of every good moment.”
A GoFundMe page to help with Halie’s medical expenses has been set up.