US/World

Burn Victim Dana Vulin Takes Off Mask After Being Set On Fire By Jealous Woman; Trauma Of Burn Injuries

Inspiration and courage was unveiled after a third-degree burn victim took off her face mask for the first time two and a half years after recovering from being set on fire in an attack. When Australian woman Dana Vulin was 26 years old, the course of her life changed and her life was dramatically threatened when she had to battle through 30 months of surgery and therapy to survive.  

“If I could turn back time and not be burnt or had the chance to not have my scars, of course I would take it, but if someone were to ask me how I feel about my body — I am damn proud of it,” Vulin said in her Sunday Night 7 News interview. “I will always love the person I am, and that is what got me through this. I've always known who I am — I don't doubt myself. Oh my God, just try to stop me.”

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Vulin was in her own home alone when a woman, who her estranged husband spoke to, doused Vulin with methylated alcohol to set her ablaze. Natalie Dimitrovska admitted to being jealous of Vulin’s beauty and because of her desperation to fix her marriage, she broke into Vulin’s home on Feb. 16, 2012 while under the influence of drugs. She had previously threatened Vulin with phone calls, haunting her with a last promise to “ruin her pretty little face.” Dimitrovska left Vulin for dead after setting her on fire, but thankfully the neighbors found her, and she was immediately rushed to the hospital where she was placed in a medically induced coma.  

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Since the horrific attack, Vulin has worked hard in rehabilitation to get her body in shape. It has not been an easy task, as part of her rehab included laser treatments that burned layers of her skin off and then required dripping her own plasma into the broken skin over and over again. She’s been forced to wear a protective mask throughout the years of recovery, but she says it has made her feel “like a nothing and a no one.” After taking the mask off, she took to the catwalk at the West Australian Ballet Center.

“I hope they'll see strength, power, confidence, self-respect, courage, determination — so I hope they see through the scars and see Dana. Actually, you know what? I hope they see the scars because it's a part of me now and they see a new Dana. I am who I am and this is it. It's overwhelming — I'm glad I can start living my life now. In my wildest dreams in the beginning, I didn't for one second think I could look in the mirror and see the old Dana again.”

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Dana’s physical recovery is astonishing and hard won, but the lasting psychological distress may ripple through her and her family for the rest of their life. Major third-degree burns like Dana’s, which covered 64 percent of her body, can cause a plague of worries about the future, attending events, coupled with a loss of independence, stress of intimate relationships, and post-traumatic stress disorder from the initial event itself, according to Burn Injury Model Systems. However, watching Vulin and her incredible courage walking down the catwalk seemingly defies the mental and emotional toll the tragic attack could have on a person. Her strength has resonated throughout her recovery and years to follow.

“I'm going to make this burn my bitch,” Vulin said. “I'm going to kick it in the face and I am going to rock scars, look hot with my scarred-up body, and just make this work. It would've been easier to die, but I've never taken the easy road to anything so. It is the hardest, rockiest, biggest mountain you can possibly think of. It's not an easy feat.”

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