The Woman Who Was Shot in the Face By Her Boyfriend | The Oprah Winfrey Show | Oprah Winfrey Network

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She has been called the woman without a face. Today, Carolyn Thomas has a message for every woman in a stormy romance. It is a lesson that has come at a heartbreaking unthinkable price. [MARIMBA MUSIC] Growing up as an only child, Carolyn and her mother were inseparable. Throughout high school, Carolyn was a star athlete and basketball and track. She was popular with her classmates and loved going to school dances. In college, Carolyn studied to become a drug and alcohol counselor. She also dreamed of getting married and starting a family of her own. But on December 5, 2003, Carolyn's life would be forever changed. [DRAMATIC MUSIC] This is Carolyn. [GASPS] That is true. Half of her face is gone. It was literally blown off in a horrific crime. The man who pulled the trigger was her own boyfriend of many years. [MARIMBA MUSIC] When Carolyn met Terrence Kelly, she thought she found the man of her dreams. Soon, they moved in together. In the beginning, the relationship was a normal relationship. We got along real good, went out to eat, things of that nature. OPRAH WINFREY: But after just a few months, Terrence began to show a much darker side of himself. He got very jealous and he was very controlling with what I wear. I wasn't allowed to wear things that showed off my figure. I was only able to associate with my immediate family. I wasn't allowed to talk to my male cousins because, you know, he really didn't believe that they were my cousins. He was verbally abusive. OPRAH WINFREY: Then the emotional abuse turned violent. I remember getting beat up for dying my hair. He didn't think that that was ladylike. He beat me up for stopping and talking to another guy. OPRAH WINFREY: Despite constant abuse, Carolyn stayed in the relationship for eight years. I was in love, and I thought that he was going to change, and that I could change him. OPRAH WINFREY: Carolyn was relieved when her mom, needing a place to stay, moved in with them. I confided in my mother. She told me to leave him because he was abusive, and that he might kill me some day. Well, that day did come. On December 5, 2003, Terrence Kelly came home to the apartment that he shared with Carolyn and her mother. Believing another man was in the house, he flew into a jealous rage. Terrence was saying, someone was in the apartment. Me and my mother were trying to tell him that there was no one in the apartment but us three. And he just kept on ranting and raving, grabbed a gun. My mother was trying to calm him down. We ended up wrestling for the gun back and forth, hustling for it. And he ended up getting it away from me and shooting my mother in the stomach. And after that, he grabbed me around the throat, put the gun to my temple. OPRAH WINFREY: Terrence Kelly shot Carolyn at point blank range. Her face was shattered. Carolyn's mom made it to a neighbor's apartment. He called 911. OPRAH WINFREY: Entering the grisly crime scene, police officers discovered blood and bits of bone sprayed everywhere. They assumed Carolyn was dead. When the officer came in the apartment and I grabbed him on the ankle to let him know that I was alive. OPRAH WINFREY: Emergency medical technician Dale Yates says she was one of the most horrifically injured shooting victims he has ever seen. Her face was totally, totally gone. The eyebrows down to the top of her job was concaved in. You could actually hear some gurgling sounds coming from Carolyn she was attempting to try to breathe, and that's when it dawned on me we had a person who was still alive. I took my hand and inserted down in a concave part to dig and fish everything and open up her airway. OPRAH WINFREY: EMT Yates literally fished bits of bone and teeth out of Carolyn's mouth so that she could breathe. I believe Carolyn was this close probably to death, just within fractions of seconds. [POLICE SIRENS] And she is here today. [APPLAUSE] So how are you doing? How are you? I'm doing great. - You're doing great? - Yes. Yeah. I heard that in order to speak again after losing your-- the top of your mouth, because he literally shot your face off and the top of your mouth, that you had to speech therapy to learn how to speak again? Yes, I did. I had to learn the alphabet all over again, learn how to speak in sentences, and just how to breathe through-- through the trach. How to breathe through the trach. - Yes. - Yeah. How long were you in the hospital before you saw your face? I was in the hospital, I would say, a good three months before I saw my face. I took it upon myself to go in the bathroom and remove the bandages. I just wanted to know what the extent of the damage was. And what did you think or feel when you saw your face for the first time? I felt horrible. I felt that I looked horrible. I didn't even want to look at myself. I felt that no one else would want to look at me either. And this is, audience, you should know the first time that Carolyn has shown her face publicly. So when you came out, you came out in a big way. Yes, I did. Yeah. I heard one of the most difficult things for you is-- is-- is going out in public. Yes, it is. It's very difficult. When I go out in public, people stare, you know, turn around. The hardest thing is a lot of times, I-- you know, go out, and it would scare kids. I love kids. And I remember going out shopping one day, and a little kid just screaming on the top of his lungs. I thought maybe it was the fact he wanted something in the store for his mother. But he told his mother that I scared him, and that just broke my heart. So Carolyn says in her dreams that she still is the old Carolyn, right? You still have your face? You dream of yourself with your face? Yes, I do. I still dream of myself with my face a lot of times. So how did you find out that your mother had been killed? I found out maybe about three days after being in the hospital, and I woke up. And the first thing I asked was, where was my mother? Because do you remember being shot at all? Do you remember that? I remember having an out-of-body experience. And it was kind of like the devil was on one side, God was on one side, and I was falling down this tunnel real, real, real fast. And after not getting to the bottom, I just remember this calm feeling, and not feeling any pain, and asking God to forgive me for all my sins, and if he sees fit for me to be here, then, you know, to be so.

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