Facial disfigurement: A voyage around my face
25, 2014 BY TOMHICKEY53IN FACIAL
in Viennaís Rathauspark
That face above is mine. So what do you see when you look at it,
especially if you have never met me before? Go on, be honest. The
truth wonít hurt me. At least not now.
Iím facially disfigured. In truth Iíd like to look like someone else
Ė Brad Pitt and George Clooney ideally, but Iíd have settled for
something more normal and less noticeable than my own. Iím 60 now so
I know thatís never going to happen. This is who I am now, scars and
all. Physical scars are one thing, psychological ones something
else. More about that in another blog, but for the moment hereís a
little biographical detail.
Fifty-eight years ago this month I was with my sister alone in our
home. Lorraine is just one year and four days older than me. Mum was
across in the shop buying groceries, about 20 yards away. It seems
Lorraine was holding pieces of paper close to the fire then tossing
them in once they lit up. I was obviously watching my big sister, so
when she left the room for a moment I reached for the paper and held
it close to the fire too. Once I saw the flame I must have panicked,
dropped the paper on my plastic bib and set the plastic alight.
Lorraine remembers flames shooting up from my chest and neck as I
screamed in agony trying to run out the front door. But there was no
escape. We were both too small to open it, but our screams reached
my mumís ears and within minutes the fire brigade arrived.
I spent two and a half years in hospital following the accident and
I donít have one single memory. My left hand was badly burned and
the fingers twisted and web-like in appearance. I had special
cutlery that looked more akin to surgical instruments than a knife
and fork. I was 12 when those fingers were finally separated and I
could hold my hands together so that the fingers touched properly.
Unfortunately, my facial injuries were a lot worse than you see
above. For example, my chin had fused into my chest to give me a
quite horrendous appearance. As the years passed and there was no
sign of major reconstructive surgery, dad decided the best option
was to take me home before I became too institutionalised.
Eventually he donated a skin graft to provide me with a chin. The
operation was a failure. There was no option but to take the graft
from my stomach and attach it to my chin, so Iím the only man with
It may not be so obvious from the picture but my ears were also
burned: the right one has lost most of its fleshy flap, the left a
bit. I grew my hair long to hide them initially, but then realised
people rarely noticed the ears anyway.
The throat area is a patchwork quilt of skin grafts. Some areas
there are soft, others hard, and the pigmentation varies. The sides
of my face are a host of brown shades, but are basically scorch and
burn marks. They give my face a somewhat tanned look.
And then thereís the chin. Because itís a skin graft the skin tone
doesnít sit well with the rest of my face. Itís the most obvious
feature people notice because it has been stitched on and has a
bulky appearance. My bottom lip is also stitched to the chin and
looks swollen as the lip itself looks very large. I always have the
sensation that my lower lip is inflamed, and keeping my mouth closed
for more than a minute causes aching pains and discomfort to this
day. I also tend to drool because I have little muscle control. Loss
of muscles and nerve tissue led to an attempt at one stage to
transplant some from my left hand onto my face and chin. I still
So now you know. So far I have had more than 40 operations
associated with the accident, mostly skin grafts. The last one was a
real horror experience that finally ended whatever slight hope I had
that I might look more normal.
Welcome to my face.
To read more about this
remarkable man's journey log onto his blog address below