By Sylvia Mac
Aged just 3, me and my siblings were playing 'Hide & Seek' in the London's East End flat where I was born My mother told us not to go into the bathroom as she was boiling water from pots to pour into the bowl for our bath. We had no hot water at the time so our mum often boiled the water. As soon as my mother had disappeared, me and my sister ran towards the bathroom. I ran inside to hide and as the door opened, I fell backwards into the boiling water.
I suffered 3rd and 4th degree burns over my back and various parts of my body. I was rushed to the local Royal London Hospital where they couldn't accommodate for burns and had police assistance blue light me to Mount Vernon Specialist Burns Hospital in Middlesex.
I was put into an induced coma on life support. My family were told I wouldn't survive and called for a priest to give my Last Rites. My father insisted that I was Baptised first. Miraculously I pulled through. My mother told me that they turned me onto my side and I had a huge hole in my back. Whilst off the life support I caught pneumonia which meant a second dose of intensive care. The doctors told my family I would not survive the night but once again I pulled through and continued to get stronger.
During recovery, I had skin grafts taken from most of my body, where the skin was thick enough. This procedure was sore and very painful along with the healing process. They froze my good skin so that I always had skin for years to come on my visits having numerous surgery.
I spent many months in this pre-war hospital seeing sights that no child should endure. My ward was a mixed ward with people of all ages and many different burn injuries. There were lots of people with bandaged heads that scared me so much I couldn't sleep. When I was at home I suffered continuous nightmares of doctors and patients. My parents were not able to stay with me and I learned to treat nurses as my second parents. I continued to visit my hospital for ongoing surgery, skin grafts and z-plasty procedures. I was often used for studies on burns. I was always naked, stood on a bed and told to turn around for the students. I hated these visits as they caused me to have nightmares and suffer depression at a very early age.
I became a Competitive swimmer in my younger years which meant I would have to learn how to cover my burns from the other children. I worked hard not to draw attention to myself and had my sister carry a very large towel to the end of the pool. I spent most of my life covering and hiding my burns. I never believed I was beautiful and couldn't look at myself in public mirrors. I was called names and told I wouldn't ever have a boyfriend, get married or be beautiful which stuck with me throughout my life. I found it impossible trying to sit exams and concentrate even at job interviews. I felt so lost and alone at times and wondered how can anyone in my situation become anything great in life when all I could think about was how terrible I looked. I never forget being scouted for a modelling agency and then asked to leave because of my scars. Life became impossible to me and paranoia set in which meant I was always running away from situations that could've potentially helped me.
Now aged 50, I look back and realise I spent many years suffering with Anxiety, Depression, PTSD but have now learned to change all of that. I campaign for those suffering with their disfigurement by raising awareness and showing support through my blogs and social media. I continue to share my photos and reach out to different industries so that people affected by their appearance can become Olympic swimmers, actors, actresses, dancers, lawyers, doctors etc. Don't allow the way you look stop you from achieving. Its never too late to achieve your dreams and helping others achieve theirs. It does not matter what age you are, you can still live your life happily and fulfilled.
Together we can make change and not sit around waiting for life to pass us by. Everyone can learn to embrace their differences which will then make it easier to have self love.
There is no need to hide your Disfigurement. We can become confident again and learn to live in happiness. Let your inner beauty shine through, believe in yourself as our differences or disfigurement is just an extra part of our uniqueness. We can all be beautiful people ❤️