It was May 18, 1988, and I felt like the most blessed woman in the world.
My red-headed, Scottish husband David, 31, was my soulmate. Married for two years, we both had jobs we enjoyed and had just bought our first house in Perth.
Each time I walked through the door after work, my heart gave a little jump for joy.
That night, after a trip to the theatre, I went to bed in our freshly renovated bedroom while David stayed up for a nightcap.
The next thing I knew, I was woken by David’s frantic screams.
‘Suzzie, Suzzie! Save me, save me!’ he cried.
I fumbled around the dark, still unfamiliar bedroom, and finally found the door handle.
Flinging it open, I was horrified by what I saw.
David, my beautiful husband, was on fire, his body engulfed in flames.
He was under the shower in the bathroom, but the water did nothing to extinguish the blaze.
David’s body was black and charred under the flames. Bits of his skin were falling off and melting with the intense heat.
The skin from both his hands hung off him, as if he was halfway through taking off a pair of long rubber gloves.
As smoke filled the room, I realised it wasn’t just David who was on fire – it was our house as well!
I needed to get us out quickly.
After smothering David’s body with towels, I half dragged him to the backyard and plunged him into our saltwater pool to try and cool his skin.
Neighbours called emergency services as I repeatedly submerged David’s head, terrified that his scorched throat would swell and he wouldn’t be able to breathe.
‘My wee house is burning down!’ David kept screaming. ‘Save my wee house!’
At the hospital, David was placed in intensive care and doctors broke the news that he had third-degree burns to 30 per cent of his body.
The rest of his body was covered in first and second-degree burns.
As David lay unconscious and unrecognisable in the ICU, arson and forensic teams were able to piece together what had happened.
David had tried to start a fire in our fireplace with a tiny drop of petrol.
Static electricity generated by his nylon-lined coat and woollen jumper had caused the petrol to explode as soon as he removed the cap on the can.
I stayed by David’s side sending him every bit of energy I could muster, as I thought back to our wedding vows.
Till death do us part, in sickness and health.
I thought about how we planned to have children.
‘It’s okay darling,’ I said. ‘I’m here. I love you.’
On day three, the machines attached to David’s swollen body started beeping madly and I was moved out of the way as doctors and nurses fought to save his life.
It’s not the end of our road. It can’t be, I told myself over and over.
As David’s fighting spirit took over and his heart started beating again, relief swept over me.
Later, after weeks of uncertainty, David finally opened his eyes.
Despite his ravaged throat, he told me he loved me before he drifted back to sleep.
It was months before he was allowed home, where all but the lounge room had been saved from the fire.
But he still had seemingly never-ending skin graft surgeries and years of wearing pressure garments ahead of him.
Although David was in relentless emotional and physical pain, we never lost hope of having children.
We were soon blessed with Hamish. Then, three years later, Eve came along.
But life was difficult.
David struggled with pain and depression and self-medicated with alcohol.
I suffered what may have been a mix of post-natal depression and post-traumatic stress, and 10 years on from the fire, when I was 33, I was diagnosed with endometriosis and had to have a hysterectomy and lower bowel removal.
We were struggling to run our distribution business, raise two young children and pay a mortgage.
David and I were not happy people.
It was time for a change, but we weren’t sure what exactly that meant for us.
We knew how frightening it could be when even the best laid plans came up against unexpected challenges, so we decided to channel that experience and help others to transform their lives.
I became a business coach, motivating others to achieve greater business success, and David gave up alcohol and became a personal trainer and yoga instructor.
We’ve spent the last 10 years dedicated to helping others.
Despite all we’ve had to overcome we now run multiple businesses successfully, have two beautiful children, and have become the healthiest versions of ourselves possible.
I’ve even written a book called What’s Your Plan? – an inspiring story of overcoming adversity and the importance of never giving up.
David inspires people every day to be pushed by their dreams, not pulled by their problems.
He has shown me that anything is possible, change is a constant and that we can always improve.
What’s Your Plan? by Suzzanne Laidlaw is now available to buy at suzzannelaidlaw.com.au, Dymocks, or Book Depository.