A primary school teacher who suffered horrific burns after waking up in a campfire has recalled the heartbreaking plea she made to her husband before being put a coma.
Halie Tennant, 29, from Hotspur in Victoria, spent months fighting for her life after falling asleep next to a fire on May 30 during a spontaneous camping trip with a friend.
Awaking to discover Halie face-down in the flames, her friend ripped her out then drove the pair the 1km back home, where Halie’s husband Mathew kept her calm and ran her face under a cold running tap.
As they waited for paramedics to arrive, Halie asked the love of her life to make her a promise.
‘I don’t remember any pain,’ she said.
‘I [just] remember asking Mathew to love me no matter what and him saying yes.’
An ambulance and Medevac helicopter were called to their home and Halie was rushed to The Alfred Hospital where she was placed in ICU due to the severity of her injuries.
Doctors then proceeded to place Halie into a coma for eight days and she was moved to the burns ward to start her road to recovery.
Halie spent two-and-a-half months in hospital and underwent six surgeries including the removal of damaged skin and skin grafts to the face, neck, eyelids and mouth.
The educator has little recollection of how she ended up in the fire, but remembers dozing off beside it in her camping chair.
Her friend, who had fallen asleep in her swag, was awoken to 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.’
Halie believes the chair must have tipped with her falling onto the blaze.
Springing into action, Halie’s friend pulled her from the fire, quite possibly saving her life, and poured ice cold water over her terribly burnt face in order to cool it down.
Following her series of operations and time in hospital, she has made good progress.
But the healing process has not been without its problems.
‘I was released from hospital for a week and a half and had to be readmitted due to my eyelids not touching,’ she said.
‘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 that it =couldn’t open enough to eat something of a fork or spoon.
‘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.
‘The hardest thing was losing my identity, I’m not a vain person, but your face and its characteristics are important in how you recognise yourself. Not knowing who you are any more is a hard thing to come to terms with.
‘The only comment I have received in person outside the hospital was a man walking past and he told me ‘you look like a zombie’ and kept walking.’
Yet, Halie is thankful for the outpouring of support she has received from well-wishers online, her family and her husband Mathew, and is certainly trying to find every positive in the incredibly tough situation she finds herself in.
‘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.
‘I am unable to work, I currently can’t drive, but I 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.’