Katie Piper is a best-selling international author, inspirational speaker, TV presenter and charity campaigner. She is also a young woman who has rebuilt her life after surviving a brutal attack in March 2008 at the age of 24, in which she was raped and had sulphuric acid thrown in her face. She spent two months in the Burns Unit at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital where she was placed in an induced coma in intensive care.
Katie’s surgeon Mr Mohammad Ali Jawad and his team performed pioneering surgery on Katie. They chose to remove the dead layers of skin from Katie’s face and rebuild the foundations of it using a dermal substitute called Matriderm along with skin grafts from her back and buttocks. It was the first of its kind in the world to be done as a single stage operation.
The outstanding treatment and physiotherapy Katie received as an inpatient at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in the UK was extremely important for her road to recovery. However, once she was discharged she left a lot of support behind her, just when fighting the scars became most difficult.
Katie went to an intensive burn rehabilitation unit in France to undertake a long period of scar management techniques. This centre had a remarkable impact on her recovery, both mentally and physically. It was here, whilst interacting with other burns survivors, that she made the most progress in regaining control of her life.
She had to wear a plastic pressure mask for 23 hours a day for two years as part of her treatment. Her injuries also meant that she needed to be fed through a tube in her stomach as reforming scar tissue in her throat restricted her ability to eat and drink. The acid also left her blinded in one eye.
Prior to the attack, Katie was a model and budding TV presenter, with a hectic social life and a glowing future in the public eye. The attack ruined Katie from the inside out. Like many, she believed her life was over now that she was a ‘burns victim’.
Katie also began researching support for burns survivors and she was introduced to other effective non-surgical treatments such as laser, camouflage make-up, and medical tattooing. She has undergone extensive reconstructive surgery and she’s come a long way. Relying heavily on family and friends, and thanks to the outstanding treatment she received in France, alongside her own incredible determination, she no longer feels that her burns define her.
Just over a year after the attack, Katie made the decision to give up her anonymity and share her story in a remarkable film for the Cutting Edge strand on Channel 4 called ‘Katie: My Beautiful Face’. which was watched by over 3.5million viewers and nominated for Best Single Documentary at the BAFTA Television Awards in 2010.
In 2009 she went on to set up her own charity The Katie Piper Foundation. Simon Cowell supported Katie in her mission by becoming the patron and remains actively involved to date. The charity’s vision is a world where scars do not limit a person’s function, social inclusion or sense of well-being.
The charity’s aims are to:
- improve outcomes for burns survivors
- deliver – directly or indirectly – intensive, comprehensive burns rehabilitation (post acute care discharge)) in the UK
- support burns survivors throughout their journey of recovery
- progress a deep understanding of the context in which the Foundation acts (the burns care world) and of the key stakeholders
- develop key relationships, collaborations associations and partnerships.
Since then, Katie’s life and career has gone from strength to strength. She has gone on to make a number of TV shows both here in the UK and internationally, she has written 3 number one best-selling books and her original autobiography has been translated into several different languages and sold around the world. Katie has been described as an inspirational role model, and her bravery and determination have been recognised by being nominated and receiving a number of awards.
She was voted Woman of the Year 2011 and most recently received a special recognition award at The Pride of Britain Awards in London.
The outstanding treatment and physiotherapy Katie received as an inpatient at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in the UK was extremely important for her road to recovery. However, once she was discharged she left a lot of that support behind her, just when fighting the scars became hardest.
Katie spent five three-week blocks in a specialist scar treatment clinic, Centre Ster in France. She feels that the non-surgical treatment she received there was a critical contributor to her recovery. With time, her scars became soft, supple and pale. Her skin grew more flexible and her face began to feel like her own again. Slowly, her battered self-confidence and self-belief started to come back as she learnt to accept that her burns didn’t have to define her.
From 9am – 5pm daily, Katie received a combination of simple and cost efficient treatments proven to be most effective in improving the appearance of burns and scars. These included intensive deep tissue massage, one-to-one specially adapted physiotherapy exercises, Endermology machines that work at softening the skin and making it more malleable, hydrotherapy and high pressure jet therapy and silicone treatments alongside the wearing of pressure garments.
Another important part of the treatment for Katie was being in a supportive environment shared by people going through a similar experience. This was instrumental in showing her that she could beat her scars and it taught her to believe that she could stop them from cocooning her. The structure of a daily routine also meant she had a reason to get up in the morning at a time when she needed it most, which really helped her regain control of her life.
Being fortunate enough to go to Centre Ster to experience how much more could be done to help not only the physical scarring but the mental and emotional challenges of this trauma, made Katie realise she needed to be involved in making this treatment more widely available for others.