— By: Alexandra Kinias —
Carmen Blandin Tarleton’s story is a tangible manifestation of human courage. Survivor of a heinous attack the doctors described as ‘the most horrific injury a human being could suffer’; she was finally able to go home with a new face. Carmen was the victim of her husband.
The Vermont mother of two was maimed by her husband in 2007 when after a jealous spree; he broke into her home, beat her with a baseball bat, doused her with industrial strength- lye and left her to die, burning from the inside out. The crime changed her life. After the attack which burned 80% of her body, Tarleton spent the next three and a half months in hospital in a medical induced coma. She woke up to the horrific news that she was blind and disfigured. After seven years of painful treatments during which she had undergone 55 surgeries, Tarleton was among sixth person in the US to get a face transplant. Her new face once belonged to a woman who died of a sudden heart attack.
The journey to recovery had been very painful; emotionally, physically and mentally. It is a miracle for her to be where she is today. Her chances for survival were meager, according to her doctors. And if she did, her future was anticipated to be gloomy and bleak. But Carmen showed the world that miracles do happen and that the strength of the human soul is unchallengeable. Undefeated by the disfiguration she was never able to see (Carmen is legally blind as the chemical burnt her retinas) she evolved more powerful than ever. Out there to share her experience with the world, she wants to help people find their inner strength to cope with their own pain and sufferings and carry on with their lives. And along the road of recovery, the former nurse has found happiness and forgiveness. “I learned that … forgiveness doesn’t condone anything he did and it’s not about him – it’s about forgiving him, it’s forgiving myself, it’s allowing myself to move forward and not getting stuck in the tragedy of that night,” said Tarleton.
Carmen could have just lived in the shadows of life simply surviving, but instead she integrated back in the world and realized the purpose in helping other Victims of Violence to reclaim back their shattered lives. Using her own experience, she demonstrated how to counter negativity to positive driving power. She shared her story to help people find their inner strength no matter how much pain they endured or for how long. With the endless reservoirs of strength and hope inside her soul and, Carmen became a motivational speaker and an inspiration to those around her.
In February 2013, Tarlenton had undergone the 14 hours face transplant surgery. The new face that was revealed to the public on May 1, 2013, is the gift that Carmen received at the end of this journey, which for most is an agonizing one, but which she refers to it as incredible. For her the new face gives a closure to a chapter of her life. One she had never anticipated, yet she was able to survive and defeat. “What a great way to move forward with what life has for me now.” Tarleton said.