Anton Guinea, 47, from Gladstone, Qld, shares his story
I twisted the top off a bottle of beer and took a swig.
“Ahh that’s better,” I sighed.
I’d had an exhausting day playing footy and was ready to blow off some steam. A few mates were having drinks at the local sports club, so I dropped by for a couple of cold ones.
“Good game today, buddy,” one pal said, smiling. As I scanned the room, I noticed a young woman I’d never seen before.
She seemed like the life and soul of the party.
“Who’s that?” I asked my friend.
“That’s Julie,” he explained. “She lives in Brisbane, but grew up here.”
Jeepers creepers, I thought. I watched as strands of brunette hair swept across her stunning face.
I’ve gotta get to know her.
“G’day,” I beamed. “I’m Anton.”
She gave me a hug, and we were inseparable for the rest of the night.
She told me how her dad was a policeman in Brisbane, but she still called Gladstone home.
That night, I went to bed buzzing and desperate to see Julie again.
Next weekend, we went out for a meal together and got to know each other more.
“I’m going back to Brissie this week,” she said while she poked at her food.
“Bummer,” I admitted. I desperately wanted to keep seeing her. “What if we do a long-distance thing?”
“That’d be great,” she said.
Soon after, Jules went back to the city while I worked at my job as an electrician’s apprentice.
For the next few months, we talked every day on the phone and I even did the five-hour drive to visit her a couple of times.
One day, she rang me with good news. “I’ve got a job in Gladstone,” she said.
“That’s amazing!” I said. I couldn’t wait for her to move back. I missed her to bits.
Weeks later she moved in with a friend and we visited each other all the time.
At work one day, I was fixing a tricky switchboard when… boom! There was a sudden white flash as it blew up in my face. I came to on the floor.
Pushing myself up, I had a searing pain in my hands.
They’d turned black and were blistering. Some of the skin was even peeling off.
“Did it get my face?” I asked my colleague.
“Nah,” he lied.
Then the pain kicked in and I knew it had got my face. My colleagues rushed me to hospital, where I was taken straight to ICU.
“I’m afraid you have second degree burns across 15 per cent of your body,” the doc explained. “You may burn internally so we’ll closely monitor your condition.”
Taking it in made me dizzy.
The treatment involved having my damaged skin peeled off to encourage new growth.
Looking in the mirror, my face was red raw, and it was so painful. I worried I’d be badly scarred.
What if Jules doesn’t want me anymore? I thought.
But I shouldn’t have worried. Julie was always by my side showing me how much she loved me no matter what I looked like.
A few weeks later, I realised I needed to make some changes. I didn’t want to be a sparky anymore.
“I’m gonna leave the electrician business,” I told Jules.
“I’ll support you no matter what,” she replied.
A month later, I applied for a new job as an electrician in WA. It wasn’t my dream, but I knew changing careers would take a while.
I wanted Julie to come with me. I couldn’t do long distance again.
Plucking up the courage, I called her.
“Jules,” I said. “I want you to come with me to WA.”
We were both from Catholic backgrounds, so I knew that if she was going to come, it would have to be as my wife.
“Marry me?” I asked.
“Of course!” she squealed.
I know it wasn’t the most romantic proposal ever, but it was right for us. After I hung up, I brought flowers over and took her shopping for her dream ring.
“I love it,” she smiled, admiring the diamond.
Soon Mum, Dad and Julie arrived.
“Thank God you’re alive,” Julie cried when she saw me.
Two days later I was taken to the burns unit in Brisbane. Julie came with me, and I couldn’t have been more grateful for her support.
I moved to Perth a few months before her to get settled, while she arranged our wedding.
On the big day, I was so excited as I stood at the altar.
When I finally saw my beautiful bride, my heart skipped a beat.
She wore a stunning white dress, and in true Jules fashion, wore a pair of white Nike running shoes.
Afterwards, we celebrated with 120 friends and family.
Lots of my mates hadn’t seen me since my accident, and wanted to know all about it.
But I wanted to have a good time so brushed off questions.
As the years rolled by I put it behind me. Jules and I even had two boys Toby and Zac.
There is no better feeling than becoming a father.
The kids were around for our 10-year anniversary, when Jules and I renewed our vows.
Eventually, I found my calling in life as a motivational speaker and leadership coach.
I could finally use my near death experience to help others overcome big hurdles.
Now, Jules and I have been together for 30 years, and it’s my proudest achievement.
Through all life’s ups and downs, my wife has been there for me. My accident made me the man I am today.