In September 2021, Charlie woke up before her kids and headed out to work on a project at the brewery she owned with her husband. She settled in and got started sanding a chalkboard. Unbeknownst to her, a few yards away, a gas can was leaking, seeping out fumes all around her. When she dropped her belt sander and it sparked on the ground, Charlie was engulfed in flames.
Milliseconds later, her intuition took over. She remembers saying to herself, “I have to live, I have to live.” She screamed, took six agonizingly slow steps, and threw herself to the ground, where she landed in a patch of gravel and was able to put the fire out.
Despite the pain, she remembers being eerily calm after the accident—so calm that her husband didn’t believe she was hurt until she sent a picture of her burns. “I never lost consciousness and was just praying. My boys were always in my forefront. I had to get home for my boys.”
Medevacked to the hospital, doctors were unsure if she was going to live. They told her that she would need to be hospitalized for at least 12 months and would likely be confined to a wheelchair.
“Being involved with such an accident was extremely hard and depressing. I wondered how I would ever take care of children, especially my infant. Life was and would be very hard.”
Over the next six months, she underwent 58 surgeries and procedures, each requiring up to 2 pints of blood. Without the hospital’s blood bank and help from anonymous blood donors, her recovery would have been impossible. To confirm the blood was compatible, both Charlie’s blood and the donor’s blood were tested in the laboratory. Laboratory scientists determined the blood types, tested for diseases, and confirmed that neither blood had harmful antibodies.
“Without the lab, I wouldn’t be alive,” she said, “When you think about everything that had to fall into place for me to live, it’s insane”
During her treatment, Charlie was unable to see her infant and four-year-old, which was devastating. Despite the 90-minute drive to the hospital, her husband came to see her almost daily. The treatment was exhausting, but she was determined to go home as early as possible. After six months in the hospital and three months at a rehab facility, Charlie finally got to go home.
Over two years after the accident, Charlie is determined to embrace life with her family and friends. Adapting to using a wheelchair has been challenging, but she doesn’t want to slow down. “Some people are overly cautious, but I have to live life because I almost didn’t have one.”