Holleh’s Story

holleh-survivor-storyIn 2009, aged 13, I sustained burns to 11% of my body. My burns are to my face, neck, shoulders and hands. I obtained my burns from a BBQ accident where both myself and my brother, 16 at the time, were engulfed by a ball of flames.

Our May bank holiday BBQ is forever engrained into me and my family’s lives. The image of seeing both their children on fire, is something my parents will always want to forget. The pain my brother felt from his superficial burns were clear through his excruciating screams. My body’s failure to take action against the flames is something I’ll always be disappointed in.

Whilst my brother was resuscitated and treated in Addenbrookes hospital, I was separated and transferred to Broomfield burns unit with 3rd degree burns. This hospital and the team there quickly became my second home and a second family for me. I spent weeks in Intensive Care and HDU (of which I remember very little) and underwent hours of operations and facial reconstruction. I felt safe in this hospital, where I didn’t anywhere else. I didn’t feel comfortable looking in the mirror and screamed so loudly when I first saw myself, that the whole ward went silent. My face didn’t look like me anymore and my hair had been fully shaven. I felt my life and my future had been ripped away from me; I had so much life yet to live.

holleh-survivor-storyAfter being discharged, my life was bounded by burns treatment: pressure garments, physio, massaging, silicon gels, operations, hospital appointments, itchy skin, camouflage makeup and more hospital appointments. A day wouldn’t go by without my injuries being the centre of my mind. My family’s life was equally affected. The hardest part wasn’t even having the treatment, it was not knowing whether any of it would work; the recovery of my burns was so unpredictable.

I consider myself one of the really lucky ones. During my recovery, although hard, I was surrounded by the best healthcare professionals who became part of my family; the best friends who made everything still feel normal; and the most committed family who would’ve done anything for me. Because of this support I was able to extract my old life and continue living like a (fairly) normal teenage girl. I started my GCSEs just 3 months after my accident and found a motivation I never knew I had to not let the burns define me.

holleh-survivor-storyThis year is the 12th anniversary of my burns. Although, in some ways, it feels like it was yesterday , there are so many days I forget I even have burns. My burns recovery was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. The improvement your skin makes after the burns is really underestimated. Within such a short time of my injury, my scars started to heal, my grafts started to blend and my hypertrophics flattened. My hair grew back and in time, so did my confidence. I went on and lived a ‘normal’ life so quickly after the burns. All my fears of not integrating back into society, not having friends or relationships all seem like such an overreaction now. Words can’t describe how happy I am with my burns recovery.

My burns don’t dominate my life any more, they’re something that happened to me but they aren’t the focus of my life. I’ve had further operations in these past 10 years to restore my hairline, transfer fat to my face, laser treatment, microneedling and more, but they never interfered with my day to day life. My burns recovery (although I wouldn’t choose to go through it again) gave me so much motivation to make the most out of my life and I appreciate every single day of it.

Now, aged 24, I am absolutely ecstatic to have graduated from university (Summer 2019) alongside my family and friends. I’m currently a Junior Doctor working in Liverpool. Hopefully I can make a difference from the other side of the medical world!