Suzel’s year got off to a terrifying start.
Here, Suzel Mackintosh, 24, tells the story in her own words.
I￼t’s almost midnight!’ I said, looking at the time. I worked as a model in London but I was home for Christmas in WA.
My good friend Brendon, 24, had invited me to go camping with some mates near Pemberton for New Year.So we’d driven down on the 30th and explored the bush.
One guy had brought his dog, a Staffordshire-pitbull cross.
An animal lover, I’d enjoyed playing with the friendly pup.Now, we were sitting by our tents, watching the clock on our phones.
‘Happy New Year!’ we cheered at midnight, raising our drinks.
As we toasted 2018, I wondered what the year would bring. I’d love to meet someone and settle down, I thought. And a designer handbag would be nice! I loved buying brands and snapping selfies.
A few minutes later, I went to grab something from the car.
Rummaging around, I spotted the dog on the back seat.
‘Hey bubba,’ I smiled, leaning in to give him a pat.
Suddenly, a scary look came into his eyes.
In a flash, he launched at me while I froze to the spot in horror.
Clamping on to my face with his teeth, he shook his jaws as I desperately tried to get free.
The savage attack only lasted for moments, but I already knew it had done permanent damage.
Falling backwards when he finally let go, I touched my bloodied face.
Part of my nose is hanging off! I realised, feeling sickening holes in my cheek.
Blood was pouring out as I raced to another parked car to look in the mirror. My whole career, and my self-confidence, depended on my looks.
Seeing my reflection in the dim light, the sight hit me like a punch in the chest.
My face had been torn, with deep gashes in my cheek, nose and lip.
Probing my cheek with my tongue, I could push it right through. I’ll never look the same again, I panicked. And no-one’s ever going to love me, I thought, my dreams for the new year disappearing.
Screaming and sobbing, I was too filled with fear and adrenalin to feel pain.
Hearing my cries, my friend Kareem, 24, rushed over. Knowing first aid, he cleaned up the wounds.
‘You need to go to hospital,’ he said. With no phone service, we piled into a car.
After an hour, we finally got reception and called an ambulance that met us on the road.
At a small country hospital, the gouges in my face were stitched up and cleaned to prevent infection.
Then, I was taken to plastic surgeons in Perth.
Meeting my mum, Lana, and dad, Rob, at the hospital, I was so pleased to see them.
‘We’re going to get through this,’ Mum told me. ‘You’re going to be okay.’
After I was taken into theatre, surgeons did their best to fix me up.
Waking up afterwards, my face was so painful. But the mental anguish was just as bad.
Seeing my face in the mirror, I was shocked at how it was swollen and criss-crossed with stitches and scar lines. The specialist had bad news for me too.
‘There has been some nerve damage in your lip and nose,’ he said.
It meant that one side of my smile wouldn’t be as high as the other.
‘How am I going to get work?’ I sobbed, devastated. My whole future had been taken away.
Poor Brendon blamed himself for asking me to go on the trip.‘This isn’t your fault,’ I reassured him.
After a week in hospital, I was allowed home. Going for check-ups regularly, I also battled my emotional trauma.
I woke from nightmares about being attacked and was reminded of the horror every time I saw my reflection.
‘I think I need counselling,’ I admitted to Mum. ‘We’ll get you all the support you need,’ she said.
The sessions helped, but I was hit by another blow when doctors told me they wanted to keep an eye on me. It meant I wouldn’t be able to go back to London for three more months.
Out of work, I couldn’t pay my rent so my friends had to move my stuff out for me.
Still, I was determined to get my old life back.
So, in April, I hugged my family goodbye and flew to London.
Starting over again was tough, but my friends, including Janis, 26, were my rocks.
And in May, I plucked up the courage to share some photos of my injuries and scars on Instagram.
You’re so brave and still beautiful, people wrote.
Learning how to use specialist make-up, I started to pose for photos again. But inside, I still worried about my looks.
Confiding in Janis, I told him how my scars made me feel low.
‘What? You look like a warrior princess!’ he told me, amazed I was feeling self-conscious.
His words melted my heart, and I started to feel more than friendship for him. Admitting he felt the same, we shared a kiss.
Soon, we became inseparable. Now, a year on from the attack, I can’t believe how far I’ve come. And I’m no longer so interested in designer clothes, handbags or selfies.
‘You never know what’s around the corner,’ I say. ‘Don’t worry about things that don’t matter.’
This New Year’s Eve, I’ll celebrate with Janis. And my resolution is just to be happy!
Read more in this week's issue of that's life, on sale now.