27-year-old Courtney Waldon was a new mother from Tallapoosa, Georgia. She and her husband were enjoying a campfire one relaxing evening, something they had done many times before. What was about to happen would turn their lives upside down forever, and put them squarely on a path that they could never have expected.
Immediately, Waldon was on fire and immersed in flames.
September 30, 2016, Waldon’s life changed forever. She suffered burns to more than 40 percent of her body and face in a horrible campfire accident. As she stood near the fire, her husband made a mistake and stoked it with gasoline. Immediately, Waldon was on fire and immersed in flames, experiencing severe pain from the burns that covered more than 40 percent of her face and body.
“It was horrible,” Waldon told Barcroft TV. “It was the worst thing I had ever felt in my life.”
“I honestly thought I was going to die.”
The immediate future for Waldon would involve 51 days hospitalization in the ICU Burn Unit, multiple skin grafts, and seven surgeries. The next 24 months, her doctors anticipated, would require twelve additional surgeries. “I honestly thought I was going to die,” said Waldon.
“…two weeks later Waldon and her daughter were abandoned by her husband.”
She was released from the hospital, and two weeks later Waldon and her daughter were abandoned by her husband. That left Caroline, just 4 years old, and Waldon, to fend for themselves. ”
I missed my mom when she was gone in the hospital,” Caroline said. Having a tragedy happen like this one is traumatic for any 4-year-old, but the fallout continued.
And suddenly, they were homeless.
Waldon’s medical bills overwhelmed her quickly and she had no income. In fact, she didn’t know if she would ever be able to work again. Her injuries were severe all over, but her hands in particular were the worst.
Waldon was unable to keep her home for herself and Caroline. They had to leave the house behind. And suddenly, they were homeless. At this point, the pain and suffering they were going through was multiplying, not getting better. But that was all about to change.
An effort of the most loving magnitude was started on her behalf…
Through the help of a local church and the community she lived in, an effort of the most loving magnitude was started on her behalf. Once her story was fully known, those people came to the rescue. It’s something any of them would have done for each other, but the assistance she was given was of epic proportions.
Pastor Jon Ellis heard the news from one of the educators at his church. “She asked there must be something we could do,” he explained. “When we asked our educators ‘What did Courtney need?’ All of them were in agreement that she needed a house.”
That’s when Pastor Jon approached Mark Bradley, a local constructor. “When Jon asked me about it, I was like, absolutely,” Bradley shared. “Let’s do it.”
“It’s made me stronger today.”
The fact that Waldon is alive is not lost on this incredible woman, and neither is the gratitude she has for the lessons she has learned as a result of this catastrophe.
“It’s made me stronger today,” said Waldon. Her parents, Karen and Scott Caspar, are equally grateful.
“I was just devastated when she lost her house,” said Waldon’s mom. “And then, all of the sudden, the community came together…and I knew that was probably the only way that she would ever be able to have her own home.”
Mark Bradley (left) and Pastor Jon Ellis (right)
Waldon and her daughter not only had their faith in humanity restored, but they were unknowingly bringing an entire community together and acting as a motivating factor for more helpful projects to come.
“I just believe that, through Courtney, the building of this house and the process is allowing us to do greater things in the community,” said Pastor Jon. “After this, our goal here is to build a city of refuge—a place where single moms or battered women, children, [and the] homeless would have a refuge to come to.”