‘I got burnt a day before my first birthday’: How my injuries changed my life
‘I just want everyone to be free and open, and not judged for something that wasn’t their fault.’
On the verge of her first birthday the trajectory of Lucy Wilson’s life was changed forever.
In a freak bath scolding accident, the Derby born girl was left with burns on 34 per cent of her body, and was given three days to live.
20 years later, Lucy is on the longlist for the One World Student Media prize for her website Scar Global, and is in her final year at Sheffield Hallam University studying Journalism.
Lucy’s website tells the story of burns survivors around the world, from South Africa to South Korea.
We spoke to Lucy to find out more.
“I got burnt a day before my first birthday in a bath scold incident,” Lucy, 21, told The Tab, “basically the thermostat in my household was broken so instead of cutting off at a certain temperature it kept boiling and boiling. I got burnt on 34% of my whole body, my hands, my right leg, and both of my feet. I also have amputations for four of my right fingers, and three of my toes. I was given three days to live and all of that because I caught two blood poisons and they didn’t think I’d make it, but I did make it and I’ve just recovered from there really.
“I have had like 50 operations, and I will have operations all my life. But from there I’ve kind of turned it from a negative into a positive and I’ve been involved in numerous charities, and I’m an ambassador for two charities. Restore research and The Healing Foundations.”
Lucy started travelling about two years ago. She initially went to Thailand for two weeks and returned to the region last summer.
“I volunteered in Cambodia with severely disabled and HIV children. When I was out in Cambodia I made friends with these volunteers that worked in the hospital there and they said there are no burns survivors there because they just don’t have the resources to keep them alive. If I was in another part of the world it would be a total different story, and I did more research and I tried to put this website together, just to make people aware of the differences. I do feel that we are lucky in the UK, and any burns survivor, if they had their situation elsewhere it would just be different, and the majority of them may not have survived, which I find absolutely crazy.
“I’ve managed to interview people from South Africa, South Korea, and America. I interviewed the presenter on Unreported World, the Channel 4 programme, he basically, he did a programme focusing on a Bangladeshi woman who had a severe acid attack, and I wanted you know to get his thoughts on the situation, he’s an amputee himself. I managed to interview a women in India, and basically there is this Cafe in India, which is solely run by burns survivors from acid attacks. All their waitresses, all their chefs are burns survivors, which was awesome. ”
Lucy has spoken to many burns survivors, but one girl in particular stood out.
“One of the South African children, whose name was Perlucia, and she was seven and she was just so innocent, so sweet, and she was very severely burnt on her face, half of her hair was missing. It was weird because I took her to the local tesco, and I’m burnt on my hands, and if it was a normal child…I hate that word ‘normal’…she wouldn’t have touched me, but we both had burnt hands and we were both walking down the street together, you know that was just such a moment.
“I was videoing her, and when she left she hugged me, and it was just such a sweet moment. She was up for adoption too…and I just wanted to adopt her.”
Lucy currently has an extraordinary perspective on her scars, but it’s not been an easy journey.
“Obviously growing up I had a bit of difficulty accepting my burns for the pure fact it’s just the generic questions continuously. ‘Why me?’ ‘Why do I have to have these, why do I have to have people staring at me constantly on a daily basis?’ I didn’t really find it fair at all. As I’ve grown older I’ve kind of looked back, and without these burns I wouldn’t have had many of the opportunities I had, and I tried to use my burns to help others which has been really rewarding.
“It’s really strange because when people look, I kind of like because it makes them see it, and know it’s there, but they see me as a person and they know it’s actually okay, it’s just scarring, it doesn’t actually matter. Everyone is different, maybe not as different, but everyone is different. I think every burns survivor would probably say the same: I don’t mind if someone came up to me and said, ‘I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what happened?’ I will gladly pour out everything to people.
“But some people genuinely look disgusted, and it’s that what makes it so awful. It’s human nature to look at people slightly different, but there’s a difference between looking and gawping, and I just find that really frustrating. You can tell when someone is being genuine, and you can tell when someone is being blatantly rude. For example, when I walk down the street, and when I’m wearing shorts, because my legs are quite badly burnt, literally I’ll see someone looking at me, and as I pass they are still having a really good look, and I’m still walking and they’re still looking. It’s like do you know what, you’ve had your look and that’s it. I just makes me feel really uncomfortable.
“My hope is that disfigurements, whether that’s scarring or anything else are accepted. I just want people to accept that everyone’s different. People shouldn’t be hiding away from society. I want the media’s perspective of perfection to change, because not everyone is perfect. I just want everyone to be free and open, and not judged for something that wasn’t their fault.”