'I was face first in our campfire': Teacher's brave comeback
A primary school teacher has recalled the horrifying moment her face was burned off in a campfire - sharing the awful comments she now receives from strangers over her appearance.
Halie Tennant, 29, from Hotspur, Victoria, went camping with a friend on May 30, 2020.
After dozing off by the fire in her camping chair, her friend, who had fallen asleep in her swag, was woken up by a strange murmuring noise and the shocking sight of Halie lying head first in the campfire making no effort to move.
"My friend heard a weird noise and before she even registered what she was seeing, she was out of bed and running towards me," Halie said
"I was face first in our campfire and I was making no effort to get out."
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Springing into action, her friend pulled Halie from the fire, quite possibly saving her life, and poured ice cold water over Halie's terribly burnt face in order to cool it down.
The pair drove then drove the short 2km ride home where her husband Mathew kept her calm and her face as cool as possible by running it under a cold tap as they waited for paramedics to get to the scene.
Halie has no idea how it happened but believes the chair must have tipped with her falling onto the blaze.
"I don't remember any pain, I remember asking Mathew to love me no matter what and him saying 'yes'," she said.
With the response staff quickly realising the severity of her injuries, Halie was rushed to the ICU at The Alfred Hospital, Melbourne where she was immediately placed in a coma for eight days, before being moved to the burns ward to start her recovery.
"COVID was the hardest part of my recovery, I really missed my family and friends. While in ICU I was only allowed one visitor for one hour per day so Mathew, my mum and my dad took turns sitting with me."
Eventually she was released from hospital but was only home for a week and a half before she was readmitted because of a problem with her eyelids.
"My eyelids were not touching, once this was fixed, the surgeons looked at me again when we were getting ready to discharge and made the call to operate again on my mouth, as it had contracted so much the my mouth couldn't open enough to eat something of a fork or spoon."
She's making good progress but there's still a long way to go in her recovery.
In total she's spent almost three months in hospital and had six surgeries including the removal of damaged skin and skin grafts to the face, neck, eyelids and mouth.
But the "hardest" part for Halie was coming to terms with how she looked - and the reactions from others.
"I'm not a vain person, but your face and its characteristics are important in how you recognise yourself," she explained.
"Not knowing who you are any more is a hard thing to come to terms with."
On one occasion a man walked past her outside the hospital and told her "you look like a zombie".
Yet, Halie is trying to stay positive and says she's thankful for the outpouring of support she has received from wellwishers online, her family and her husband Mathew.
"My biggest supporter would have to be my rock, my husband, Mathew followed by my best friends, parents and my own personal cheer squad on the exotica tribe Facebook group," she said.
"You have all helped me and kept me positive, laughing and honest, thank you a million times over.
Currently she can't work or drive but she's determined to have a "better outlook on life".
"Since my accident I have chosen to seek help and to start working through my problems instead of ignoring them. This has gone on to be a hunt for silver linings. To be positive and to feel and acknowledge my feelings.
"I think of my accident as a wake up call, a second chance to do better, to be better and to look after me better."
Originally published as Horror as woman's face burned off