It’s been nearly a year since Courtney Cosper Waldon, 27, was badly burned in a fire pit accident in Tallapoosa, Georgia. Since then, she’s lost her husband, her home, and her job.
But now, she said in an interview with Dearly, she’s starting to feel as if her “accident” happened for a reason. As she continues to literally and figuratively find her footsteps again, she’s trying to take each new step with purpose.
As previously reported by Dearly, Courtney was sitting by a campfire on September 30, 2016, cooking tuna steaks and asparagus when she asked her new husband to relight the fire.
She told Dearly that when he picked up a gas can, it spilled gasoline onto the fire and herself:
“When he went to put gas on the fire, it shot up. He either swung the gas can or the fire shot it off his hand. And when that happened, the gas can went up and flipped. It threw gas on the fire and onto me. I was sitting on the opposite side of the fire from him. The gas came across and the fire followed it.”
Courtney immediately stopped, dropped and rolled, as she had been taught in school. Her husband tackled her to help put the fire out. She was airlifted to a medical center where she was treated for third-degree burns on her face and 40 percent of her body.
According to People magazine, Courtney spent 51 days in the hospital, including 40 days in the intensive care unit and 30 days in an induced coma. The first time she saw herself in the mirror, she broke down in tears.
Her husband left her two weeks after she woke up from the coma and told her he “couldn’t handle her” anymore. She was devastated when he left, but she stayed motivated and worked hard to return home to her 5-year-old daughter Caroline.
Caroline was a little nervous when she saw her mom for the first time after the accident. Courtney told People:
“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.”
After Courtney returned home, she lost her home because of financial difficulties with the medical bills. She also lost her job as a barista.
She told Dearly that there have been moments during the past year when she thought about giving up. But her faith in God and her love for her daughter helped her continue:
“I was at my lowest in the beginning. Every time that I would get to that point, I would pray to God and tell him to help me get through it, and He did.
For the longest time, I wouldn’t even look in the mirror, I was so devastated. It was such a big difference from before. But I think God allowed me to get down to help others who are feeling that way. Now I can help others.”
Now she’s excited to announce that she has a new opportunity as a public speaker to tell her story to other people:
“It’s going to be a little bit nerve wrecking, considering it will be my first big speaking event. But I know that God lead me to it to do this, so he will help me through it. I just want to help everybody. I want people to know that just because you’re having a hard time, it isn’t the end of the world. If I can get through it, then anyone can get through it.”
After her story went viral earlier this year, she received personal messages from people who were struggling. She said that she talked to them, prayed with them, and helped talk them out of committing suicide.
She even told Dearly that people can reach out to her on Facebook if they’re feeling down:
“If you are having a bad day, you can reach out to me. Stay positive because you have this one life and there’s no reason to sit there and be unhappy. You have this one life and you need to make this one happy while you can.”
As a burn victim, Courtney will need an estimated 12 more surgeries over the next two years. It is unknown if she will ever be able to return to regular employment.
She’s currently staying with her mother, Karen Cospar. Karen put together a GoFundMe page to help Courtney pay for the house and medical bills.
Members of their church are working hard to build a new home for Courtney’s family. The house should be completed by October.
More than anything, Courtney is thankful for her family and friends for helping her get through this difficult year.
When asked if there was anything she wanted to say to other parents, she focused on how important her daughter has been in her recovery:
“We’re parents. God gave you that kid. If it wasn’t for God, you wouldn’t have that child. Let them be strong and be your inspiration when you are going through something bad. They are there for a reason and can help you through. Caroline was mine. I wanted to give up in the hospital. In the first month or so, I would look at my daughter and know, he gave me her for a reason. I’m trying to do the best I can. I want people to know that if you have kids, look at them and know you have to stay strong and they will help you through.”
Courtney said that she’s no longer upset about the losses she’s suffered over the past year. In fact, she’s starting to embrace them as part of a bigger plan for her life. She used her divorce as an example:
“I’m kind of happy it happened and that he left. I wouldn’t be where I need to be today if I was still with him. I forgive him and I hope he’s happy. I’m moving on with my life and I couldn’t be happier.”
If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.