17 years ago, Greenlee was blinded in an acid attack and left for dead at a gas station. A woman threw a mixture of lye and bleach on Greenlee after learning her boyfriend was cheating on her with Greenlee. Hopkins, now a wide receiver for the Houston Texans, was 10 years old at the time.
In a new ESPN Cover Story multi-platform piece published on Wednesday, Greenlee opened up about her ordeal.
“As I’m lying there, the first thing I’m thinking is, ‘Why would someone pour warm water on my face?’ ” she said of the moments after the attack. “But a couple of seconds later, I realized it wasn’t warm water, because my skin is literally falling off my face, my neck, my chest and my back.”
After the attack, Greenlee was airlifted to a burn center in Georgia and remained in a medically induced coma for several weeks, according to ESPN. When she returned home, her young children were shocked by her appearance.
“I was in shock that somebody could look like that,” Hopkins, now 27, said. “It was really scary — and to think that’s my mom, she’s gonna be like that the rest of her life. I was hoping that it was a dream.”
As Greenlee started to recover, she began to look for work so she could support her kids, explaining that she kept thinking, “I’m the only source of support that my children have … now I’ve failed them.”
According to ESPN, Greenlee did odd jobs like babysitting to bring in money, and also sold drugs.
“I thought I was doing what I needed to do,” she explained. “In hindsight, it was the worst thing I could’ve done, when you have kids that are just trying to go to sleep and get up in the mornings to go to school … but I was just seeing it as a way to make money.”
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SOURCE: PEOPLE, Helen Murphy