I don’t feel like I’m different from anyone else, but at the same time, I know that I am. There are the differences you can see, the physical impact of scars, but it’s the emotional component that stays with you forever. A world without scars is something I could never have even contemplated, and for me, it talks as much about the emotional impact as anything else. In my work as a doctor, perhaps because of my experiences, I try not to see patients, but people. That’s why for me scar free healing is an amazing medical ambition, but what’s really exciting is what it’s going to mean for people’s lives.
Hemani survived burn injuries on over 30% of her body, at the age of 18 months.
At the age of 18 months I suffered burns to 35% of my body when a candle caught onto my pyjamas, suffering significant burn scarring on my head and ear, across my chest, and on my legs.
My life has been punctuated by a series of painful operations to deal with the physical effects of the burns and recover functionality of all of my limbs. I lost one of my ears in the accident and initially my chin was fused to my chest. I lost function in one of my thumbs, causing restricted hand movement. As I grew, some areas would get tighter and more painful, and it would mean another operation was required to release the tightness and regain mobility. With each operation came a new trauma to the skin, resulting in a continuous cycle of scaring.
I had my final scar-related operation at 20-years old. If I’m honest, that’s when the extent to what I had been through finally hit me. My mum and dad, who have been my absolute rock – always supporting me and never treating me differently to anyone else - I don’t know how they did it. Seeing their daughter go through that must have been absolutely heart-breaking. They would have given anything for it to be them and not me. And for my older brother who was four and was the one to find me when the accident happened - seeing that happen to his baby sister would have had a huge impact. My younger brother was born a few years after my accident but was there through a lot of my operations and recovery. I will never forget how he wanted to be the first to take my new prosthetic ear to school with him! I also remember him tucking cushions and blankets around me after an operation so that I could sleep more comfortably.
I now have a wonderful husband, and a beautiful little boy. My husband is my biggest cheerleader, who has always looked at my scarring as just being part of me. He says 'you are you and that's all that matters’. The only day-to-day care required is to put on my prosthetic ear and apply a moisturising cream to my scars to ensure the skin stays supple. Other than that I'm just a normal mum, wife, daughter GP, friend and of course, Scar Free Ambassador.
As a doctor I couldn’t be more excited by scar free healing for my patients, and as a burns survivor – and a mother - I just look forward to future generations having reduced or even no scars from accidents and operations. I think that’s just so exciting.