"I could hear my mum scream. I saw my reflection in the window. I could see that I was on fire and all I could think that I was going to die."
Aleema survived burn injures to 55% of her body when she was 12 years old.
In December 2016, when I was 12 years old, I returned home from boarding school where I had – like so many other kids – had caught head lice. My mum immediately washed my hair in medicated shampoo to kill the lice in her hair. Keeping the shampoo on for half hour meant I could do a few chores for my mum. I walked into the kitchen to take the bins out, while mum was cooking. I did not realise shampoo was highly flammable. In a split-second after walking past the cooker my hair caught fire – my head was engulfed in flames.
Mum tried to call for help, I was confused as to what was happening. I remember the shock on my mums face. I remember the paramedics arriving and taking me to hospital. I remember the pain. But most of all I remember thinking I was going to die.
And that is all I remember until six-weeks later when I woke from a comma. I had survived 55% burns to my body. I had been given a 10% survival. I had burns third-degree burns to my face, neck, thigh, arms, stomach, back and chest and I had lost seven fingers. I thought I would never lead a normal life again.
I stayed in hospital for almost a year to recover, and in the past six-years I have had countless painful surgeries and physiotherapy sessions. Including skin graft surgeries; an operation to enable me to hold objects – where they removed my toe and gave me a thumb; I wear specialised garments and have medication to help me adapt to normal day-to-day living. Every day, I must do nebulisers, humidifiers, pressure garments, splits, creams, medication and much more.
I have managed to slowly rebuild my confidence. My family, friends and the support network at the hospital has really helped. I am not only surviving but I am thriving. I am helping people understand the problems with scarring, but also how to overcome them. I have a TikTok page (@aleemaxali) where I post make-up tutorials to a fan base of almost 1million followers. I am so proud of where I have come.
I will continue to have surgeries for the rest of my life. But I will continue to raise awareness of scarring.
I've had hundreds of surgeries before and will hopefully have more in the future to help with the function of my scarring. But the thought of not having to have any more surgeries – for my body to have healed scar free – that truly is incredible. When I learnt more of the Scar Free Foundation and their mission, I immediately wanted to become an Ambassador and share my story to raise awareness of scarring. Scar Free healing is something I would love to see. The idea that no one will have to deal with the pain I have been through, the surgeries I have had, for physical scarring to be a thing of the past? – that really is amazing.