When Carolyn met Terrence Kelly, she thought she found the man of her dreams. Soon they moved in together. "In the beginning," Carolyn says, "the relationship was like any relationship. We got along real good."
But after just a few months, Terrence began to show a much darker side. "He got very jealous," Carolyn says. "I wasn't allowed to wear things that showed off my figure. I was only able to associate with my immediate family. I wasn't allowed to talk to my male cousins because he didn't believe they were my cousins. He was verbally abusive."
Then the emotional abuse turned violent. "I remember getting beat up for dyeing my hair," Carolyn says. "He didn't think that that was ladylike." Despite constant abuse, Carolyn stayed in the relationship for eight years. "I was in love," she says, "and I thought that he was going to change...and that I could change him."
Before ultimately dying of her injuries, Carolyn's mother made it to a neighbor's apartment and the neighbor called 911. Entering the grizzly crime scene, police officers discovered blood and bits of bone sprayed everywhere. They assumed Carolyn was dead. "When the officer came in the apartment," Carolyn remembers, "I grabbed him on the ankle to let him know that I was alive."
After the jury delivered their verdict, Carolyn read a statement to the man who robbed her of her outer beauty, but not her spirit. "Terrence," she said, "since you did this to me, I have learned that what does not kill you in life will make you stronger. You took away from me the one thing that I loved so dearly, and that was my mother. At least you get to see your mother even if you are in prison. Can you even imagine what it was like for me to wake up in the hospital and learn that not only was my mother dead, but that I had lost half my face? I have decided to take my life back, and I want you to know that you no longer have control over me. I can honestly say that I forgive you. The world now knows me as the woman without a face. I would rather be remembered as the woman who would be a survivor."
"Our goal," Dr. Alford says, "is for Carolyn to go out in public and look normal, not have people stare at her. We won't be able to reconstruct a face that looks exactly like the one she was born with. No one can do that."
Carolyn's first facial surgery lasted a grueling nine hours, and she's facing five more reconstructive surgeries.
"The endings that allow you to smell, the nerve endings, are [currently] at about the level of the eye [on Carolyn]," Dr. Alford says. "The reason she has difficulty smelling is there's nothing to guide the air over those endings. A nose serves to guide the air through the nasal passages to make contact with the smell nerves."
"This young lady has the heart of a lion," Dale says. "She has a will to live that I've never seen before. She's done us all very proud."
"It's a blessing to finally meet you and just thank you for doing what you did to save my life," Carolyn says. "I know you did everything in your power to try to save my mother's life, and I just thank you. God bless you."
"He would always tell me he would love me more if I lost weight," Santia says. "I started doing different diets, but nothing would work. I would just gain weight again. I joined the gym and he didn't think that would work."
Stressed out by Fabian's growing disgust, Santia's weight climbed to over 300 pounds. She made the decision to have gastric bypass surgery. But despite her continued weight loss from the surgery, Santia says her husband wasn't supportive or satisfied with how she looked. She decided to take drastic measures to lose more weight.
"Standing on the scale and seeing that it was only two pounds [lost], that's when my bulimia started," Santia says. "I started vomiting three or sometimes four times after anything that I would eat."
"It's not an easy way out, just having the surgery," Santia says. "It's not over after the surgery. And the most important thing is to do it for yourself, for your health, and not for anyone else. ... I'm working on turning things around for myself. I'm working on dealing with my bulimia. That's the most important thing right now, because it's gotten out of control."
One afternoon, Michelle hit her breaking point. Not able to deal with her bickering children that day, she put Xanax in their juice. When she saw her 5-year-old began to tire, Michelle panicked and called 911. After hospital testing and staying overnight for observation, Michelle's three children were still healthy. But after being held in jail for four days, and losing custody of her children and losing a lot of friends, Michelle's life was forever changed.
"I want them to know that [they should] just make a call," Michelle says. "Call your physician's office, your pediatrician's office. Just try and get into a support group, because they're out there. Call a neighbor to say, 'Can you come sit with my kids for 10 minutes? I need to take a walk.'"