On June 10, 2007, Carmen Tarleton’s estranged husband broke into her rural Vermont home, beat her with a baseball bat, and doused her with industrial-strength lye.

Doctors called it “the most horrific injury a human being could suffer.”

About the Author

about the author

On June 10, 2007, Carmen Blandin Tarleton’s life changed forever. Once a typical wife, mother, and registered nurse, she became the unlikely survivor of a brutal attack—and an inspiration for anyone whose life has been marred by tragedy. Born in West Fairlee, Vermont, Carmen worked as a nurse in Lebanon, New Hampshire, for nearly eight years before relocating to Los Angeles. In 1996, she joined UCLA as an RN, working 12-hour shifts as a single mother of two daughters. She began dating Herbert Rodgers—a soft-spoken, well-liked hospital vendor—in 1998, and they married three years later in 2001. In 2003, while still at UCLA, Carmen founded CNH Legal Nurse Consulting, offering her expertise to attorneys on both sides of medical malpractice suits. When Carmen and her family moved back to Vermont in 2006, she resumed her nursing career at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

After a nine-year relationship—much of which was happy—Carmen and Herb separated in January 2007. Five months later, with no history of violence in their relationship, Herb broke into Carmen’s home, beat her with a baseball bat, and soaked her with industrial strength lye. Carmen burned from the inside out. Her injuries were so severe that, hours later, only her hands and teeth were recognizable to family. Chances of her survival were grim; predictions for her quality of life, if she did live, were even bleaker. Doctors induced a coma, and Carmen endured 38 surgeries over her three-and-a-half-month sedation. When she awoke in September 2007, she was blind and disfigured.

After spending three years simply surviving (Carmen has undergone more than 60 surgeries), she realized her purpose: to counter the negativity Herb put in the world with her own positivity. Carmen recognized that by sharing her story, she could help people on an even broader scale than she had as a nurse. She could help them see that, no matter their situation, no matter what suffering they have endured, their reservoirs of strength are endless. They can choose to live. They can choose to find happiness, forgiveness, and peace. Carmen began speaking in public in February 2011. Since then, she has spoken at fundraisers, domestic violence groups, classrooms, rotary clubs, and the Vermont State Prison, where she addressed an audience of convicted sexual offenders. Through her new path, Carmen has found the deep joy and self-fulfillment she sought her whole life. Carmen’s story—and her message of perseverance—has captured major media attention, with featured pieces in the New York Times (front page), LA Times, MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, Reader’s Digest, Washington Times, and the Boston Globe, among numerous other outlets. She has also appeared numerous times on Emmy-award winning show The Doctors, receiving $80,000 in donations for medical and other expenses through the Dr. Phil Foundation. In December 2011, Carmen was approved for a face transplant, only two dozen of which have been performed worldwide. The 15 hours surgery took place in 2013 at Brigham and Women’s Hosipital in Boston.

Carmen currently lives in Thetford, Vermont. Her two daughters, Liza and Hannah, are thriving in college. Carmen is open to whatever the future holds for her.