Stories of Survival

Stories of Survival
Dr. Phil checks in with the two families competing in the Ultimate Family Weight Loss Challenge.

Almost three years ago, Cindi was driving on the freeway with her friend, Jim, when someone threw a vat of acid from an overpass

that went through the windshield of her car.

 

"The acid burned my face, my lips, my cheeks, my chin, my arms. I inhaled acid. It also burned the inside of my mouth, my tongue, and my throat," she explains. "I remember having my hands in my face thinking I was bleeding, and realizing that was skin in my hands."


Jim remembers the incident clearly. "She was screaming. She was asking for her family. She was telling me that she was dying," he says.


But Cindi found the will to fight. While in the hospital for three weeks, she was comforted by Jim, her

daughters, and her sisters. "My first reaction when I saw Mom in the hospital was pure shock. She heard me gasp," one of Cindi's daughters explains.


"I didn't see how my mom was going to come home alive," another daughter admits.


Cindi returned to work six weeks after the attack. "From the moment of the attack I decided it was up to me and I was going to live," she says.

A year after the attack she appeared on the Dr. Phil show to share her story. "Some of the advice Phil has given me is, 'Everything in life is a choice. Terrible events don't have to have terrible outcomes,'" she says. "The attacker hurt me once, but then after that, I had the choice whether I was going to hurt over and over and over

again. I could wake up and be bitter and angry, or I could wake up and see these beautiful faces and my grandkids. And I was OK with that then."


It's been nearly four years since the attack and Cindi has had 15 surgeries. "I'm at peace with the fact that I look like a burn victim. It's because I'm at peace with who I am on the inside," she says. "In a strange way, the acid burned my outside body. I believed it cleansed my inside belief system. I made a choice not to be bitter. I did not want to leave a legacy of bitterness to my grandchildren, to my daughters, to anybody."


Cindy decided to take action. In October 2003, the state she lives in passed a law named after her, making it a felony to throw anything from a bridge or overpass. She has also written a book about her experience called A Random Act. "My sister Robin has always said, 'There are no accidents. Everything happens for a reason,'" Cindi reflects. "What's made the biggest difference are the choices that I have made. I chose to live."

"At my request, [Cindi] wrote a book called A Random Act, which I think, in all honesty, is one of the most profound chronicles of human experience that I have ever, ever seen," Dr. Phil explains to the audience.

He reads from the first chapter in the book called, "Am I Dying?"


I will breathe again. I will not be trapped. I will not sit here in acid and glass and shredded skin and let this take me. I'm about to make my first choice in this dire situation. I have decided to fight ...
Looking back, I can see three crossroads where the paths I took lead me to where I am now. First, I had to decide what kind of survivor I would choose to be.


In chapter four called, "Revenge is Not Mine," Cindi writes:
I can't take all this hostility. I know my friends and family are saying these things to show me support, but I can feel the room heating up with anger and it's making me feel worse. It hurts me to see all of these angry faces that I normally see smiling and happy.

"What was your lowest point in all of this?" Dr. Phil asks Cindi.

"My lowest point had to be before my daughters got there, when I wasn't sure if I was going to live, and I had to tell them what beautiful, beautiful people I thought they were and how much I was going to miss them," Cindi replies. "But more than that, they needed to know that I was not afraid when I died, that I was OK with it."

"In addition to family, we know that Cindi considers many people inspirations on this journey of healing that she's had both inside and out," Dr. Phil says. He introduces Daphane Evans, a nursing

assistant who was part of the team that took care of Cindi, and Clarice Marsh, Director of Pediatric Nursing at Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA.


"I've said before and believe that nurses are the backbone of the medical industry and they're often unfairly overlooked," Dr. Phil points out. He asks Clarice, "How is it nurses get swept aside all the time when they are the absolute backbone of the relationship with the patients?"


"Nurses are incredibly intelligent and multi-faceted and meet the multiple needs of patients," Clarice says. "You get to help people at the very, very worst time in their life and help them to heal.

It's a bond you really can't find anywhere else."


As a surprise for Cindi, Dr. Phil introduces Officer Gary Norman from the New Castle Oklahoma Police Department.


Cindi is moved to tears. "He was my hero," she explains. "He was the first one on the scene and he gave me the most loving words and he was so kind to me. I will just never forget him, ever."