Acid attack victim shares survival story

Florida dermatologist helps woman heal

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
Headline Goes Here

MIAMI, Fla. - An acid attack left her suffering with burns on most of her body. Now, new advances in lasers are melting away her scars and giving her her life back.

"More than the pain I could remember the smell of burning flesh," said Tanya St. Arnauld.

Tanya remembers vividly when her attacker sprayed corrosive acid in her face.

"I said, 'Oh my god he's going to kill me. I have to get out of here,'" Tanya recalled.

The man accused was her boyfriend at the time.  Tanya escaped, but not before the entire bottle of acid had been dumped on her, burning 70 percent of her body.

"In the beginning you see holes in your body and you see tissue and it's so gruesome," Tanya explained.

She lost huge chunks of hair and much of her mobility multiple skin grafts left mangled scars.

"I was thinking to myself, I'm just 29 and I'm a total handicap," Tanya said.

But looking at her now, you can see that hope would come when she found one of the top scar experts in the United States, Dr. Jill Waibel.

"Most doctors don't even know, let alone patients that we have these great technologies," said Jill S. Waibel, MD, with the Miami Dermatology & Laser Institute, Assistant Professor Miller School of Medicine, Miami University (Voluntary), Chief of Dermatology, Baptist Hospital, Miami, Florida.

A second laser, known as Lumenis UltraPulse, penetrates deeply into the skin, allowing steroids and other topical treatments to be delivered where it's needed most.

"In this case it's Kenilog, which is going to help synergistically flatten the scar," Waibel said.

Waibel says the trick is getting to the scars early.

"We've found the sooner you get the lasers on the burn scars, we think we can actually prevent the scars from forming," explained Waibel.

For Tanya, it's a welcome pain.

"I'm anxious to suffer again every month," Tanya said. "It's weird to say but I love this pain now because it's so beautiful after."

Tanya wants to try to begin rebuilding her hairstyling career that was effectively put on hold as a result of her injuries. Yet more daunting is the prospect of facing her alleged attacker in court during his trial that's currently scheduled for August.

Additional Information:

When the skin comes in contact with something hot, cells in the skin die.  The depth of the injury depends on the intensity of the heat and length of time that it is applied.  If severe enough, the full thickness of the skin can be destroyed, along with tissues under it.  Burns can also result from contact with certain chemicals.  Burns are classified by the depth of each the injury so that the appropriate treatment is used.

  • First Degree:  superficial-redness of skin without blisters
  • Second Degree:  partial thickness skin damage-blisters
  • Third Degree:  full thickness skin damage-skin is white and leathery
  • Fourth Degree:  3rd degree with damage to deeper structures, like tendons, joints, and bone (Source:  American Society for Surgery of the Hand) 

TYPES:  There are many different types of burns.  Heat burns (thermal) are caused by fire, hot objects, heat, steam, or hot liquidsCold temperature burns are caused by skin exposure to windy, wet, or cold conditions.  Chemical burns are caused by contact with household or industrial chemicals in a liquid, solid, or gas form.  Natural foods, like chili peppers, contain a substance that irritates the skin and cause a burning sensation.  Electrical burns are caused by contact with electrical sources or by lightning.  Radiation burns are caused by the sun, sunlamps, tanning beds, X-rays, or radiation therapy for cancer treatment.  Friction burns are caused by contact with any hard surface like roads, carpets, or gym floor surfaces.  Breathing in hot air or gases can injure your lungs.  Breathing in toxic gases, like carbon monoxide, can cause poisoning in the lungs.  (Source:

DR. WAIBEL: "The basis of scar treatments are what we call the fractional ablative lasers. And one of the ones I use the most is the Luminous UltraPulse. There's a group of physicians across you know really the world, but definitely here in the United States and when we got together and we said to luminous, you know one of the things we need is a laser that can go as deep as the scar. Because some of these scars are very thick especially on the back and burn scars. And so luminous created some software called scar effects and that software can go 4000 microns deep. Our current thinking and what we've seen improves scars. The Luminous UltraPulse coupled with that new software has really been a great tool to help with scars."

Copyright 2014 by Ivanhoe Broadcast News and All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.