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Real Life

Burn horror: I just wanted to change my hair, not lose half my face

Brittney Sullivan, 32 shares her real life story of how a seizure changed her life forever.

By Take 5 team

Brittney Sullivan, 32, shares her horrifying real life story;

Trigger warning: This post contains graphic images.
Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, I took out my curling wand and wrapped a strand of my long brown hair around it.
My appearance was important to me.
Making an extra effort with both my hair and make-up always helped boost my confidence.
Problem was, I didn't get much time to myself.
As a wife and mother of three kids, Makennah, 10, Presley Monroe, seven, and James Walker, two, life was hectic to say the least.
Just like most mornings the children were running around, full of life.
My husband, David had left for work earlier than usual, so I had my hands full getting them ready.
After 15 minutes, I'd just wrapped the last piece of my hair around the curling iron when, suddenly, I collapsed to the floor.
When I came to, bright lights shone above me.
I was in hospital.
A searing hot pain spread across my face and I couldn't open my left eye.
"What's happened?" I stammered in confusion.
I always like to make an effort with my appearance. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
My mum, Angie, came into focus.
"You've had an epileptic fit," she explained.
I'd officially been diagnosed with the condition after having a seizure, also in the bathroom, six years earlier.
Thankfully, daily medication had kept it under control and I never suffered more than one seizure a year, which meant I could go about daily life quite normally.
But that didn't explain the unrelenting pain I was in.
"Your face is burnt, Britt," Mum continued.
It turned out I'd had a seizure just as I was curling my hair with the tongs.
When I collapsed, my face landed on the hot metal plates.
"But you're very lucky," Mum added.
"Makennah heard your scream and quickly rolled you over. If she hadn't, it would have been much worse."
Considering how much my face was hurting, I wondered how that could be.
But as soon as I looked at my reflection, I recoiled in shock.
My face was three times its usual size.
Even my lips were gigantic and my left eye was swollen shut completely.
"I look like a monster!" I cried, completely horrified.
Surprisingly, doctors didn't seem too concerned by it.
"We'll let you go home for a week," they said, instructing me on how to clean my swollen eye with a special solution.
Mum drove me home, and later collected the kids who were in school and day-care.
The curler burn made me unrecognisable. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
She'd also called David, who rushed back home from work.
One look at my injuries, and he was shaken.
"I'm sorry, darling," he said. "I had no idea it was this serious."
He reassured me everything was going to be okay, and I tried my best to believe him.
Meanwhile, I couldn't thank Makennah enough.
"You're Mummy's little hero," I cooed. "You saved my life."
Over the next few days, I tried my best to recover but the pain wasn't going away – in fact, it felt worse and the skin was turning black.
"I can't carry on like this, hon," I wept to David.
He took me back to hospital where doctors decided I needed surgery to remove the dead skin from my face to reduce the scarring.
The thought of going under the knife was terrifying, but I had started to accept the likelihood that I might never look the same.
I'm learning to be more comfortable with who I am right now. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
David was my rock.
"I love you no matter what," he insisted.
"You'll always be beautiful to me."
All those times I'd looked into the mirror and moaned about my unblemished appearance seemed so trivial now.
I'd trade anything to have that old face back.
For days before the surgery all I could do was cry.
But after my first skin graft I decided to stop hating myself.
Get a grip, Brittney, I thought.
I was still alive and had my family for support.
In some ways I was lucky.
The op made my left eye close completely because the skin had grown over my eye socket to protect it.
Now, whenever people looked at me they assumed I was blind.
What they didn't know was that there was a tiny hole under my eye that gave me a trickle of vision.
This gave me the confidence to go back to work in my office job two months later.
It was a way of maintaining my independence and getting on with life as best I could.
"I'm even going to curl my hair again," I told David one month later.
He supported my decision.
What happened to me was a complete freak accident and I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in fear.
Strangers gawped at my skin expander. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
I reasoned that I was just as likely to suffer burns from boiling the kettle or making the kids their dinner.
And just as I thought, nothing happened.
As my progress continued, doctors decided that I needed a balloon-like tissue expander inserted into my left cheek to stretch out the skin.
Having this done would mean that new skin could finally grow again.
I didn't expect my cheek to puff out enormously!
"Mummy, what's in your face?" the kids cried.
"It's to try and get Mummy's face back to normal," I said through forced teeth, aware of what a fright I looked.
My husband David is my rock. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
Outside of home or work, I couldn't escape the gawking of strangers.
"I had a seizure on my hair tongs," I said to anyone who lingered in shock.
Once they knew what had happened, they were more understanding.
Four months later, the expander in my cheek was finally removed, which allowed my eye to open a little more.
Doctors are doing all they can to get it back to normal, but it's going to be a very long road ahead.
For now, though, I'm learning to feel comfortable with the way I look.
This incident has shown me that life can literally change in the blink of an eye, and I want to make the most of the life I've got.

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