Telling it as it was

I am sure many were drawn to and moved by Katie Piper’s documentary on Channel 4 last night… very powerfully and truthfully telling of the nightmare she went through, the pain, the raw and red emotions and the everyday struggle of re-entry/rehabilitation. The operations, the mirror, the first shopping trips, the meetings with strangers – like being back at kindergarten, starting all over again to relate to the world with ‘a very different face’…

By allowing the cameras so close so early, she allowed the viewer to see it all uncensored, as it happened. Many burns survivors will have related to – resonated to – what she said and felt, as I did – and it definitely chimed with all the things we hear about from our clients who have all sorts of disfigurements from many different causes.

I congratulate her – and her superbly supportive family and hospital team (including the unheralded psychological support) – for taking the decision to go public and I hope that by exposing all the trauma, the fears, the anger and the immense challenge she has ahead, she found the experience cathartic. Certainly, listening to her on the radio during this week, I have heard a more robust Katie who is much further on in her journey. Good luck to her in her future – I know she will realise her dreams…

A Bird’s Eye view!

Partridges don’t fly very well apparently – nor very high. But I have long enjoyed taking a bird’s eye view of the world around me – and that’s going to be the purpose of this blog in the weeks and months ahead… I frequently used to travel back to my Guernsey home (not tax dodger!) with a dear friend who sadly died this year, Tony Carey, and he and I would share our ‘views’ at 18,000 ft – he had an interesting facial birthmark and was a consummate communicator, a world guru on conference organising.

Three ‘views’ this week of interest: Last night, I applauded as leading employers acclaimed the leading ‘disability-confident organisations’ as judged by the Employers’ Forum on Disability’s Disability Standard. I have been a long-time Associate of the Forum and have seen huge changes in how employers recruit, retain and serve disabled people. You might say that in these gloomy economic times, disability would not be high on corporate agendas but from the stories and evidence of last night, only the most short-sighted employers ignore the business case – one of the winners, Intercontinental Hotels Group, adapted one of its hotel rooms for a disabled woman, advertised the fact, was soon swamped by demand and have now made it business ‘as usual’.

Earlier in the week, I had attended a breakfast event at The School of Life (a fascinating venue in itself – a new social enterprise offering good ideas for everyday living) to hear Robert Rowland Smith talking about his new book. ‘Breakfast with Socrates’ is his take on how philosophers’ ideas can be applied to everyday life – from getting up, commuting, lunching, partying, loving, sleeping – and came away uplifted. The book is based on the idea that living life without reflection is less worthwhile than it could be. Robert was apparently mauled by John Humphreys for such a preposterous idea!

‘Reflection’ plays a big part in the life of anyone who has a facial disfigurement – seeing one’s face in mirrors, film and, of course, in other people’s reactions – and this week’s TV, radio and press has been much absorbed by the upcoming film about Katie Piper, model and acid survivor (C4, Cutting Edge, Thursday at 9pm). I heard a gripping interview with her on the World Service last night – what great courage and so much forgiveness – and, of course, many echoes of my own accident nearly 39 years ago.

The thing that stood out for me was her comment, which went completely unremarked-upon, that she had a psychologist with her from Day 1. You might think – and it was certainly true for me – that at 18 months, she is only in the early stages of ‘psychological recovery’. However, we have been arguing for many years – and there is growing psycho-social research evidence too – that with specialist psychological help, adjustment to disfigurements can be smoother and quicker. I wish her well – and hope that that psychology presence becomes the norm in the UK and across the world. Back at desk – a full day ahead of planning, influencing (hopefully) and, as ever, fund-raising!