In January 2009, Renee Adams Jones' life changed forever.
She was in the home of a friend, Melvin Lancaster, when he suddenly attacked her head and face with a knife.
“That's when he poured the hot oil on my head, up here and it went down,” said Jones, showing where she was burned.
Surgeons at the Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals repaired the deep cuts to her face and started skin grafts on her third-degree burns.
“But we always had this nagging sense that we weren't doing enough for patients - we weren't addressing all of their cosmetic concerns,” said Dr. Scott Hultman, a UNC Hospitals plastic surgeon.
Jones was his first patient at the UNC Burn Reconstruction and Aesthetic Center to undergo treatment with a series of new laser tools. The pulse dye laser reduces leftover inflammation from burns. The intense pulse light lightens dark scars.
“The CO2 laser, though, is really what has emerged recently that may revolutionize burn care,” Hultman said.
It zaps 15 percent of small patches of skin, vaporizing abnormal collagen below the skin's surface.
Seventeen months later, Jones feels transformed.
“We are combining the ability to do aesthetic services with the needs of our burn reconstructive patients - in a way that's never been done before,” Hultman said.
Jones won't need more laser treatments. A medical aestitician can help her with topical treatments and chemical peels to further lighten scars.
Jones' greatest reconstructive work has already taken place - in her own mind.
“I took a negative and turned it into a positive 'cause I'm not a victim, I'm a boss,” she said.
She speaks at colleges and community groups about her experience. Her attacker is serving a 15-year prison term.
“I talk about unhealthy relationships and domestic violence and stalking,” Jones said. “I'm helping other people, which helps me and the more I talk about it, the better I feel. I beat the odds of survival, and I'm still succeeding.”