Inspiring burn survivor returns home from hospital after nearly a year
Khloe McNeal beat her odds of survival after being set on fire by a stranger
KINSTON, N.C. (WITN) - Khloe McNeal returned home this weekend after a long, difficult journey to recovery.
The 25-year-old says she was driving to school on Feb. 3, in Kinston, when she was doused in flammable liquid and set on fire by someone she didn’t know.
She remembers that moment.
“I heard a voice that said, ‘this is not it for you. You’re going to get out of this car and you’re going to live,’” said McNeal, “So, go ahead, do what you got to do to get out of this car.’ And that’s what I did.”
She was rushed to the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center, in Chapel Hill, where she would recover for the next 11 months.
McNeal’s burn surgeon, Dr. Felicia Williams, says she had a less than 10 percent chance of making it. She says McNeal suffered second and third-degree burns to around 75 percent of her body.
“We said, ‘you have done something that not many people in this world have ever been able to do, which is survive a trauma like this,’” Williams remembered saying to McNeal during a tough part of her recovery, “You are the most beautiful woman in the world. I don’t ever want anybody to tell you or make you feel like you’re not beautiful.”
Though McNeal faced almost 20 surgeries and painful physical therapy, she fought against her odds of survival.
She had her mother, Keesha Jones, there to support her. However, that became more challenging when the COVID-19 pandemic began, and she was barred from visiting her daughter.
Nevertheless, McNeal was determined to get better.
“I had it in my mind, I’m not going to be here a whole year,” she said. “Whatever I do, I refuse to be here 365 days or longer.”
Finally, on Friday, McNeal was able to leave the hospital and go home.
On Saturday, the Kinston community threw a parade in her honor. Friends, family, and more—even the Kinston police and the fire department—drove by with signs, waves, and cheers.
Dr. Williams says McNeal was an inspiration and a reminder of why she became a surgeon. She says McNeal is the reason she gets up in the morning.
“I think she realized how much her recovery meant to us, to her, to the world, when they hear her story,” said Williams.
Jones says her daughter prefers the term “survivor” to “victim.” Now, McNeal says she’s an “overcomer.”
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