I was on board the RFA Sir Galahad when it was destroyed in the Bluff Cove Air Attack in 1982, during the Falklands War. They hit the ship and ignited the fuel, we lost 48 men on board, most of them my friends, and of the 97 that survived I was told I was the worst injured. I was severely burnt all over my face and body.
Since the age of 20, I have had to live with my scars. I have had a series of surgeries and skin grafts, with the first 18 months being the most intense. Many things I had taken for granted were no longer possible. My injuries meant there was no recourse to my career in the Army. I had been an avid rugby player, but the fragile nature of my scarred and grafted skin no longer allowed for contact sports.
In the early days, this abrupt change in the course of my life caused severe psychological challenges. Not only did I suffer with PTSD (and failed to receive sufficient support), I sunk into depression, worrying if I could ever have a normal life again and if would be able to have a family. I will be honest, at times I was suicidal. But my family and friends were my support network. If I was getting out of control they would tell me. There was a great deal of strength and love which pushed me forward.
It didn’t happen overnight, but I gradually put all of my doubts about the future to bed and rebuilt my confidence. There was a long path and a huge transition to go through but I had to learn to like myself, the person that I was, and ultimately I did.
I am passionate about the issue of scarring, and want people with these kinds of visual differences to be accepted in society. Often we are stared at - staring is invading someone’s privacy. It’s sometimes almost impossible to hide your scars. And why should we hide them? People with scarring are not a toy or a collectable for your appreciation – they’re real people who just want to be treated as equals. Nowadays I’m not affected by the offensive things some people say. I’m very comfortable in my own skin, and want others to be too.
I am so proud to be the Lead Ambassador of The Scar Free Foundation, and the longest running Ambassador as I joined when it started in 1999. The Scar Free Foundation has such a great vision. There’s a heck of a lot of work to do. We need to have something in place to minimise scarring and eventually eradicate it. It is a fantastic group of people, a small but dedicated team that’s been so successful in what they’ve done so far. But more funding is needed for the Foundation to continue.
To end up with a scar free world, wouldn’t it be wonderful?