Overcome: Burned, Blinded, and Blessed

Carmen Blandin Tarleton

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.”

Tarleton spent the next three and a half months in a medically induced coma, and when she awoke, it was to an unimaginable reality: she was blind and permanently disfigured, with burns covering more than eighty percent of her body and face. Her recovery would include weeks of painful rehab, dozens of surgeries, and total dependence on family, friends, and strangers for physical and financial care.

With so much taken away, no one could have anticipated what Tarleton would gain from her experience: an awakening. A purpose. Joy. By sharing her struggles and ultimate victory over catastrophic loss, Tarleton proves that life is a choice—and, in the process, offers a rare glimpse into the best and worst corners of the human heart.

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Carmen Blandin Tarleton discusses her book on The Doctors in the days after her face transplant surgery.

How This Book Was Created

Carmen Blandin Tarleton’s indelible Overcome: Burned, Blinded, and Blessed is the result of heartfelt collaboration between Carmen and the Round Table Companies (RTC) storytelling team. To create this book, RTC executive editor Katie Gutierrez and Director of Author Support Kristin Westberg conducted a series of intensive interviews with Carmen over a period of several months, using those to help craft the book you now read. Throughout the process, the book touched the hands of RTC’s writers, editors, proofreaders, transcriptionists, designers, and executive team. We are grateful to Carmen for inviting us into her journey, for bravely revisiting heartrending memories, and for sharing so authentically how happiness can come from struggle. Carmen is an extraordinary spirit, a force that entered the lives of the RTC team and changed them all. It is our hope that in reading this book, you will feel the energy of everyone who contributed to its creation. We also hope you will feel as though Carmen is speaking as directly to you as she did with us—because she is.

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Author Information

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 55 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 LA Times, MSNBC, Fox News, Reader’s Digest, Washington Times, and the Boston Globe, among numerous other outlets. She has also appeared 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 17-hour surgery is slated for 2013. Carmen hopes it will put the simplest actions—such as blinking—within her reach again, giving her greater freedom to fulfill her purpose: inspiring people to truly live.

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.

To hear Carmen speak, check out the RTC Speakers Bureau page here!