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…

3 thoughts on “Telling it as it was

  1. I have just watched Katie on the iplayer and shed a few tears, what a beautiful girl she is. I hope her dreams come true and she meets a kind man who will see the shining star inside.

    James, I met you a few years ago, you were very kind to me and I will never forget it. You may remember I spoke to you on the phone and said I hated my face, but I was not disfigured, my scars were on the inside. You said I could come to your course. I remember walking out with you at lunch time, and seeing how confident you were, I learnt a lot from you and your colleagues that day.

    My BDD is still there in the background, it surfaces sometimes, but age and experience helps me to deal with it.

    I wish you well with your blog, I have been blogging for almost a year now and I enjoy it, it helps my confidence. I will put yours in my favourites and will pop back from time to time. Best wishes, Ilona

  2. As regards the Katie Piper TV programme, I am also a patient of Chelsea & Westminster Plastics Team and can tell you that those patients who, unlike her, were not previously glamour models from whom the consultants can obtain career boosting publicity, do not get the same privileged treatment that she has received.
    My medical background is that I have been very badly and totally unnecessarily facially deformed (“deformed” being my choice of word) by the incompetence and in my view, negligence of doctors including doctors from that team. Unfortunately there are very few craniofacial surgeons in the UK and no other NHS ones operating on adults in London, so I am stuck with a team in whom I have no remaining confidence (they are fully aware of my views, incidentally).
    In contrast to the TV image of the empathetic and helpful understanding of that team, a Plastics Team female registrar gave me unsolicited advice that now I was no longer an attractive woman I should see it as an opportunity (sic) to develop another aspect of my personality. With regard to the unnecessary disfigurement of my face, her comments were of the “hey, bad things happen, you just have it accept it” school. A lead clinician in the team has forcefully insisted that in due course I WILL feel happier about the mess that they have made of my face and if not, then I should have counselling.
    Unlike with Ms. Piper’s treatment, the possibility of counselling has been made available to me only ten months after the surgery which destroyed my face, and only after I said that I was psychologically at the end of my tether with failed operations (four in a row) and the way that my life had been totally destroyed – not just aesthetically, but socially, sexually, professionally, financially – you name it.
    So I’d suggest that people treat aspects of the TV documentary about Ms. Piper with real cynicism – you for example will not be sent for free treatment in a complementary medicine clinic in France. If you enquire about the silicone gel freely used on Ms. Piper’s face (and you’ll have to enquire – they won’t mention it to you, on the basis that it is “unproven”) they will suggest to you that you should buy silicone gel yourself at £30 per 15g even though it is available on NHS prescription (but not from their hospital pharmacy – I am currently awaiting a response to my query as to why not, but suspect that it is an economics based decision as it is a very expensive product for the NHS to supply – a factor that it not actually legally appropriate to such decisions).
    Like myself, you may also be wrongly told by some lazy Dressings Clinic nurse who cannot be bothered to go and get fresh supplies that you have it buy surgical dressings yourself out of your Income Support, from your local pharmacy . Or you may be treated in truly atrocious way by the consultants’ exceptionally unpleasant secretary, who seemingly lacks all comprehension of the rights of patients under the NHS Constitution and in my view would be more suitably employed in a concentration camp. (Some of my eleven months of dreadful experiences are related on under “Charing Cross hospital” and “Chelsea & Westminster hospital” or the initials “J.M”. The issues re the registrar and the secretary are the subject of formal complaints currently being investigated by C&W hospital. Unfortunately for the nurse and the secretary and others of their ilk, unlike a lot of patients I am legally qualified, specialise amongst other things in the law of governance of public authorities and am able to respond assertively to such inappropriately bullying behaviour)
    I actually found it very offensive that Ms. Piper’s consultant commented that his heart broke when he saw her because she was so young, so pretty and she was at the hospital through no fault of her own,
    I wouldn’t imagine that many of his patients self-immolate or self-harm, and his comment about her age simply reinforced for me the ageist and sexist attitudes that I have encountered in the NHS, that suggest that because I am a middle-aged woman it really shouldn’t matter to me any more what I look like.
    I have been in touch with the producers of the TV programme about Ms. Piper, suggesting that they ought to do a balancing programme about the realities of NHS treatment for the vast majority of the newly facially disfigured. They have suggested that I put together a pitch for such a programme, so anyone who has had equally awful experiences in the NHS please cont

  3. I have been in touch with the producers of the TV programme about Ms. Piper, suggesting that they ought to do a balancing programme about the realities of NHS treatment for the vast majority of the newly facially disfigured. They have suggested that I put together a pitch for such a programme, so anyone who has had equally awful experiences in the NHS please contact me on

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