AKRON, Ohio (WJW) — The life of a college student with a promising future was nearly derailed during a catastrophic furnace fire earlier this year.

University of Akron senior Hailey Essinger will be back in the classroom this upcoming semester, just months after recovering from severe burns to about 25% of her body.

“You never think those kinds of things will happen,” she said. “You never think in the blink of an eye your entire life will change.”

Essinger, who is studying biomechanical engineering, was one of four injured during her internship at a Marietta plant in mid-April.

“We were subcontracted to demo a three-story furnace that had molten manganese in it,” said Essinger.

“The manganese inside the furnace — it was very hot. It crumbled and sent off an ash cloud. The ash cloud hit the molten manganese and lit it on fire. … I was in the cloud of flame and fire and I was running through it,” she said.

Essinger said she was wearing protective gear, however, it was no match for the intense heat of the fire.

“I walk out of the building and my skin — it started melting off my hands,” she said. “We’re in the car and my feet are on the dashboard because the skin on my legs — it started melting off as well.”

Essinger was ultimately transported to the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and began a grueling recovery which consisted of surgery as well as a newer technique her care team credits with her faster recovery.

“What we did for her is one of the newer technologies called RECELL which is spray skin. And we’ve really found this has revolutionized how patients with this deep partial thickness to full thickness burns recover from a burn, especially for our younger healthier patients,” said Dr. Nicole Bernal, director of burn services at Wexner Medical Center.

“We’re taking a shaving of skin from the patient, and through a kit we digest it with enzymes and we turn her skin into an aerosol spray,” Bernal said. “So a piece of skin the size of a postage stamp can then cover an area the size of your computer or an iPad.”

Essinger said she has to learn how to walk and use her hands again, after suffering burns to her face, neck, hands, hips and legs. Just months into her recovery, she is beginning to run again.

“Honestly, only by the grace of God could this have ever happened,” she said.

Essinger, who is planning to leave the state for another internship in the coming days, said she wanted to share her remarkable story of recovery to inspire others to stay positive through dark times.

“I’m alive,” she said. “I was saved. I got through this and I can get through more.”