Why I hate Halloween

For people who look different Halloween is one of the worst times of the year, after Valentines Day, especially those who are facially disfigured. For ‘normal people’ they will never know how it feels for someone to dress up to look like you do on a daily basis in order to scare people at Halloween, then describe their ‘costume’ as horrific or a monster.

I’ve been told on many occasions that I look like a monster or I look so ugly that I don’t need to wear a mask at Halloween. People think that because it is Halloween they can be as offensive as they like. I would never go out in public on Halloween, I might go to a house party but I would never go out in town or anywhere public because the comments and looks I would get would crush me, it would take me weeks to recover emotionally (and I might punch someone).

Every year I see people dressing up as a ‘burn victim’ and see myself, I look like that or used to look like that. People can tell me that they are not dressed up as me in particular (of course I know that, I am not that self obsessed) or not to be so sensitive or to get a sense of humour as much as they like but it doesn’t make it hurt any less. Believe me it is not as much fun having to look like that every day. Now I am fully aware that 95% of people do not mean to be offensive, they just don’t think about it but it is still offensive and it hurts. At the end of the day I am human and I have to walk around every day with burns, I am discriminated against and looked down on as a result so to make light of that is just cruel.

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Dress up as a super hero, a celebrity, an animal not a group of people who are treated so badly by society it is bullying plain and simple, it may not be intentional but that doesn’t matter.  It is possible to have a good time without being offensive. Just last week I read about a group of students that dressed up as the survivors of the Smiler rollercoaster accident for a pub crawl missing limbs and all. Two girls lost their legs in that accident, how did anyone think that is appropriate?! This incident just demonstrates the lack of empathy that people have towards others who have been through a traumatic incidents or those who are different to them. Is the 5 minutes of attention you get for having a cool costume really worth crushing someone else’s self esteem and putting their recovery back months, even years?

People seem to be willing to put themselves and their children in serious danger at Halloween. Fireworks and Bonfires are not toys, every year i hear about people, mainly children, blowing fingers or hands off as a result of fireworks or people falling into Bonfires, it is not worth it! Also a lot of people don’t seem to realise how dangerous Halloween costumes are they are very very flammable, stand near a candle and you can go up in seconds. You do not want to end up in the Burns Unit.

Please be careful or you may end up looking like a Halloween costume next wear, a costume you wont be able to remove on the 1st of November.

 

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My Crowning Glory

Over the last few years I have seen a lot of articles on famous men having hair transplants, the first thing  I think is who cares, its none of anyone’s business then I think its terrible that this procedure is always being spoken about as a cosmetic procedure for vain old men.

As with most cosmetic procedures hair transplants can be used for reconstructive purposes, I have had both a hair transplant and eyebrow transplants and the results are miraculous, I cannot over emphasise the different these procedures have made to me. Of course people who have this done for reconstructive reasons, aren’t spoken about as it makes the procedure less glamourous and people prefer to think of it as purely a shallow cosmetic procedure, its easier that way.

Now don’t get me wrong I don’t see the point in men having hair transplants as men go bald, its natural so why bother. I don’t see why men would be self conscious about it, its natural and a lot of men are very attractive bald plus lets face it men can look any way they want and it won’t really affect how they are treated by others or society unlike women. But thats just me, each to their own, I’m not a man so I can’t claim to know how they feel, whatever makes them happy. I know that in the tv/ movie world it makes a huge difference to the work you get. Also without the demand for this procedure for cosmetic purposes there would be no money to develop it and it would not be available for reconstructive purposes (there is no money in burns reconstruction).

I had a hair transplant done about 7 years ago in HRBR, Blackrock (before it was cool 🙂 ) I had met the surgeon, Maurice Collins, years before that but put the operation off as I was in college and it is a very expensive procedure. Guess what, like the lazer, hair transplants are not covered by the health service or health insurance as it is a cosmetic procedure, even if used for reconstructive purposes (are you noticing a trend here?). I had an eyebrow transplant 2 years later. I did have to be talked into the eyebrows as I was bit worried about getting anything done to my face. You probably think look at you, what have I got to lose but its taken me 20 years to look like this so it is a big decision.

As the roof literally melted during my accident a lot of the flames fell on my head burning my scalp and face which meant I had no hairline, eyebrows and had patches of hair missing, not a good look. You cannot underestimate the effect having no hair or eyebrows has on a woman, a lot of cancer patients say that losing their hair is the most traumatic part of their illness.

The procedure itself is pretty amazing, in very basic terms they remove a strip of your scalp then harvest each tiny hair follicle and replant them one by one wherever the hair is needed (I wouldn’t have the patience). Its a bit more complicated than that but you get the gist. They also plan out the shape of your hairline or eyebrows so they match the shape of your face and look as natural as possible. I have had hundreds of operations so they don’t make me nervous the only thing that I was uncomfortable with is the fact that you are awake during the procedure, my worst nightmare is being awake or waking up during an operation. 😦 I was able to watch a few movies to distract myself during the actual procedure, I think I watched Sex & the City during one of them, but I mainly just waffled away talking crap for hours, the poor nurses. The nurses and doctors are so nice and brilliant at their jobs, they really care about what they do. The hair transplants need to be kept wet for a few days, they fall out (a bit worrying when that happens but it’s normal) then they grow back.

The hair line was a very subtle difference but it took me a few weeks to get used to my eyebrows but I am obsessed with them now, I looked like I had 2 caterpillars on my face. You don’t realise the difference a hairline and eyebrows make to your face they totally shape all of your facial features. I get a lot less attention with them, people don’t notice me as much. I know some people would like more attention but for someone who wasn’t able to go out in public without being stared at for nearly 20 years this was huge!

I would advise anyone who is considering having a hair transplant (for reconstructive reasons actually screw it, even for cosmetic reasons) to definitely go for it, I have no regrets it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. 🙂

 

 

Vive la France!

I wasn’t going to write a post about my trip to France but after this week’s events in Nice I felt like I should. 😦

Last month I went to Nantes, France for a week to attend my cousin’s wedding (yes I know another wedding). My mam’s sister married a French man and lives in Nantes, my two cousins grew up there. I went over for a week with my parents, my brother and sister in law joined us from America. We had not seen my brother in over a year; he moved to America two years ago and got married last summer so we were really looking forward to seeing him. My mam’s brother and his wife also travelled over from Edinburgh and my cousins from London. It had been 9 years since my mam’s family had all been together so everyone was really looking forward to it.

My brother only received his travel Visa the week before he was due to travel and my mam lost her passport the day before we were leaving so the lead up to it was very stressful (nothing ever goes smoothly in my family) but somehow everything worked out in the end.

I have a complicated relationship with France, my accident happened in France and I spent months in hospital in Nantes. I returned numerous times over the next 10+years for more treatment and surgery so France has never been a particularly happy place for me! 😦 I hadn’t been in Nantes in over 10 years & this was the first time in 20 years that I would be a proper tourist there and not a patient.

I flew over with my parents on Tuesday, my brother joined us on Thursday and my sister in law on Thursday. We stayed in an apartment in the centre of town which was really really nice and comfortable. The first couple of days were very hot so I was dreading the wedding on Saturday incase it was roasting, I wouldn’t enjoy the day if it was too hot. On Thursday we went to my aunt’s house for a BBQ which was lovely, except French people eat very late so I was starving!! On Friday we wandered around Nantes then went for dinner in the house my uncle and his family had rented for the week. The house was just on the edge of a lake so it was very impressive. My sister in law had never met any my mam’s side of the family so I’m sure that she was very nervous.

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On Saturday morning we all got up early to get ready for the wedding and we actually got to the church early (a big achievement for my family 🙂 ). The temperature had also dropped so it was not uncomfortably hot, just nice! The wedding ceremony was in Nantes Cathedral which was amazing! Its a long story but their original church burnt down so they ended up in a Cathedral. Afterwards everyone went to the Irish pub across the road for a drink and then onto the reception which was on a barge on the Loire River. A very unique location! It was very different to an Irish wedding, a lot more informal. My cousin, Julian and his wife Sandra organised every single detail of the day, from the table settings, decorations, music, food etc so it was very personal.

The next day we went back to my aunt’s house for a BBQ and the France v Ireland soccer match, unfortunately as expected we lost but it was still a great day.

I flew home to Dublin the following day and my brother and sister in law flew to America. My cousins flew back to London and my uncle flew back to Edinburgh. My parents ended up staying in Nantes for a few extra days due to an air traffic controller’s strike (which they were quite happy about). It really was a great week, happy memories of France. I just hope it won’t be 9 years before we are all together again. 🙂

The following week I flew to Spain for my best friend’s hen party, who I am bridesmaid for 🙂 so my body is all over the place. I am really getting around this summer, my life is not usually this exciting I promise you!

Lazer me Beautiful

I have just returned from a flying visit to London where I had lazer treatment. I flew over on Wednesday afternoon for treatment on Thursday then flew home on Friday morning. I usually spend a few days there but I am broke at the moment so felt that the less time I spend in London the less money I would spend 🙂

I met Dr Tapan Patel, the owner of the PHI clinic on Harley Street, about 5 years ago at a Katie Piper Foundation event in London. He told me about a new lazer he had started using and asked if I wanted to try it as he thought it could really help my scars. I of course said yes definitely, thank you; I am willing to give any treatment a try and he seemed like a very nice, genuine person so I trusted him.

I have had lazer many, many times before in the hospital which treats the pigmentation / colour of the scars but this lazer is different it helps to improve the appearance, pliability and texture of the scars; burn scars shrink, they look bad and restrict movement.

I returned to London a few months later for a consultation with Dr Patel (who is so lovely); he told me he had started using the new Lumenis Ultra Pulse CO2 Lazer on burn scars and had seen great results in other patients. I have had hundreds of skin grafts and z plasties to release my skin and improve my range of movement and appearance; skin grafts especially are literally torture so any new treatment that could possibly have a similar effect was very exciting.

I had never heard of this lazer before as it was initially developed for cosmetic purposes, to improve wrinkles, (the lazer for burns would be much stronger though) so is of course not available through the heath service and is not covered by health insurance. A lot of new treatments are not available as they are classed as cosmetic not reconstructive but they are actually both, depending on the patient, for example hair transplants, microdermabrasion & semi permanent tattooing. This is another topic that I could argue for days but basically a lot of cosmetic treatments can be used for reconstructive purposes but are not available to burns survivors due to the cost. 😦 It is only due to nice doctors like Dr Patel that very lucky patients get to avail of these amazing treatments!!

Now I will not lie this lazer is sore, my skin bleeds for a few minutes & is pretty much raw after treatment, it is more painful than other lazer treatments I have had because it goes deeper into the skin but it works so I don’t care about the pain. Basically the lazer breaks up the scars by making (burning) little holes in the skin which encourages the collagen production to heal these little holes leading to new skin. I am not a doctor so probably dont explain it very well. These holes are tiny, like millimetres, so the difference can be tiny but any improvement no matter how small makes a huge difference. I feel a difference straight away even during the treatment it is amazing. I have had a few treatments now, I can’t remember exactly how many, maybe 5 or 6 and I have noticed a huge difference in my face, neck, chest and arms. This lazer is amazing and Dr Patel said he will carry on as many treatments as I need (he is so nice) which may take a while!! The lazer is also meant to work wonders on acne scars.

My appointment on Thursday was at 10.30am, I left my hotel at 9:30 to look for a book shop, so I would have something to read during my appointment, then walked to the PHI Clinic on Harley Street, the clinic is gorgeous. The nurse, Jude (who is Irish so we automatically like her 🙂 ) covered me in numbing cream and wrapped me up in cling film (not attractive) it takes about an hour for the cream to work so I had a chat with Jude, read my book and ate Malteesers. You really need this cream with the CO2 lazer believe me! Then Dr Patel’s colleague, Dr Benji Dhillon (who is also lovely) explained everything to me again and with Jude started the treatment. He lazered my face, neck, chest and arms while Jude used a machine to blow cold air on the treatment area to help the pain. For some reason it actually wasn’t as sore this time as it has been previously and only took about 30 minutes.

Afterwards I walked back to my hotel but I was still numb from the cream and full of beans from the adrenalin so I went for a walk around the shops for a few hours. After a while the cream started to wear off, ouch, 😦 and I felt exhausted so I went back to the hotel, ordered room service and slept until the next morning.
I am home now (2 days later) and am still a bit sore and red but I definitely notice a difference in the areas treated, they are much softer and looser something I could never have imagined a few years ago. 🙂

 

 

Hens on Tour

This time last week I was living it up in Portugal with 30 other women on a Hen weekend, what a difference a week makes!!

I got a 10 am flight to Faro airport, most of the others got a 6am flight but I like my sleep and can’t function that early in the morning so I got a later one. I arrived into Faro airport at about lunch time and got a coach to Albufeira, which I think took the scenic route because it seemed to take forever. When I got to the hotel I found my roomies and we followed the others into town where they went for a few drinks and then went back to the hotel get ready to go out. We were staying in a hotel with apartments, I volunteered to stay in the sitting room under the air-conditioning. The hotel was nice apart from the very aggressive and uncooperative hotel manager (it’s a long story). That night we headed into town.

The following day was spent beside the pool. With burns you are meant to avoid being out in the sun as your skin is more delicate and more likely to burn, and the heat can be difficult so I have never been on a sun holiday. Plus the fact that you are not walking around half naked like everyone else draws attention. I avoid the sun and heat. With 3rd degree burns your sweat glands are destroyed and don’t grow back, your sweat glands help to regulate your body temperature so it can be dangerous if you get too hot as it is difficult to cool down again. You can get very nauseous and your body has to work harder to cool down so it can be exhausting. It is also very easy to get Heat Stroke. The heat actually wasn’t too bad in Portugal though as there was a nice wind and I covered myself in factor 50 sun cream. Seemingly it was hotter at home. 🙂 I stayed under an umbrella beside the pool so my skin was fine. Had it been a hen party of a friend I wasn’t as close to I probably would’ve given Portugal a miss but I am very glad that I didn’t this time!! 🙂 I had a great weekend with lovely ladies, most of whom I knew but some who I didn’t. That night we went out for something to eat in a really nice pizza place and then to a very cool club across the road.

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My roomies went home the next day so I was on my own in the apartment which I actually didn’t mind. The next day was spent beside the pool or sleeping, we were all beginning to fade at this stage. That night we went to an Irish bar for dinner and there was an Elvis impersonator, a very bad Elvis impersonator so bad that he was funny!! 🙂 I left early enough as I was exhausted from the heat so went to back to the apartment to pack.

We were picked up at 7:30 am the next morning for the airport, the flight was delayed for an hour which everyone was delighted about. In fairness I was fine just tired but there were a few ladies who were dying a slow and painful hangover death. 😦 It was a pretty uneventful flight home (thankfully) and we all went our seperate ways …… until the wedding.

When I was younger I never really felt I had much in common with other girls because my life was so different, for most girls when you are younger it is all about what you look like and boys.  I looked awful and boys didn’t want anything to do with me, they still don’t, so I had different priorities. Girls were often very competitive with each other too, something that I have never had much time or patience for. As I have gotten older though I have found that I have more in common with other women, as women grow up they develop different priorities and interests. I have realised that women are pretty amazing, we put up with a lot. Now I love spending time with other women so weekends away like this are great fun. It is very difficult to get so many of us together at once with babies and husbands and different work schedules so any time it happens is a novelty. 🙂

 

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One year on & the world hasn’t ended!

A year ago today Ireland did what most of the world thought was impossible for a ‘Catholic’ country and voted by referendum to legalise same sex marriage and contrary to what the No side would have had you believe the world has not ended and the children are ok!

I am not gay so to say the yes vote had a huge impact on my every day life would be a lie, but I do know what it is like to be discriminated against and be judged for something that I have no control over so to see a minority group that has been treated so badly be ‘accepted’ by their own country was a huge deal to me. Homosexuality was illegal in Ireland when I was born so to see same sex marriage be legalised in my life time was a bit of a ‘miracle’.

To be honest I never understood what the big deal was, who someone else fell in love with or chose to have sex with made absolutely no difference to me. A person is a person. I went to the christening of triplets in Dublin 15 years ago, they were born by surrogate to a gay couple and it was no different to any other christening. There are two parents who were totally in love and so proud of their babies. My family are very open minded probably due to the discrimination and experiences I have had as a result of my burns so why would anyone else’s family judge them? Why would anyone judge them? Even the fact that people had to beg strangers, a whole country, for the right to marry the person they loved was ridiculous! I had watched the Panti Bliss speech about oppression in the Abbey Theatre months earlier and bawled because I identified and empathised so much with what was said.

Watching the whole country mobilise and come together behind such a marginalised community made me very very proud and cry on more than occasion. My favourite memory is walking down Grafton Street one evening and seeing the dreaded no campaigners coming for me, they got a swift fuck off and I kept walking, I tried to be civil by listening and speaking to them for the first few weeks but it made me too angry. Anyone who knows me knows I get very worked up about things I feel strongly about so i had to stop conversing with them. Anyway I went into Stephen’s Green for 5 minutes and when i came back out the No campaigners were surrounded but Yes campaigners holding hands and dancing around them with their rainbows, including a giant Y, E & S. It was hilarious, everyone was cheering and clapping for them. 🙂

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I was actually travelling to America for my brothers wedding on polling day, my flight was at 9am so getting to vote and to the flight on time was very very stressful. Luckily i met someone i knew who worked in the airport when i arrived there with 90 minutes until my flight so I managed to skip a few queues and catch my flight. I’m sure my brother would’ve understood if i had missed my flight as he was upset that he couldn’t come home to vote, I had a few days before the wedding to get another one but it wouldve cost me a fortune!! My yes badge got a lot of questions from Americans on the flight and they were very impressed that the topic was even being considered in Ireland, how they had missed all of the posters I do not know though.

When I got to America the polls were closing and like every other yes voter I was nervously waiting for the count. Obviously not as nervously as the gay community. What if it was no? How could I live in a country that actively chose to deny people a basic human right, who chose to discriminate? I wouldve found it very difficult to go back & live in Ireland if it had been a No. As I said I have been discrimainted against as a result of my scars for the last 20+ years so to have to sit around and watch other people being effectively rejected by their own country would’ve been heartbreaking. 😦

We all know how it ended, I was very very jealous that I wasnt at home for the celebrations but I watched them on TV over in America and listened to how shocked and impressed Americans were. We had finally broken free from the Church and passed what should always have been a basic right. After a challenging few years Ireland finally had something to be proud of! I watched how people cried and thanked everyone who had voted yes and spoke about how happy they were to finally be accepted as equal. I have seen many gay couples walking through town holding hands and kissing over the last year, something i had never seen before.

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Obviously everything isnt perfect and there are still those who do not agree with same sex marraige and discrimiate against the gay community, hopefully this will change over time. Only a few weeks ago a friend told me how at 28 he had just come out to his parents and they had effectively disowned him, they just wouldnt accept it and told him he was not welcome. He hadn’t seen his parents in months. To me for parents to do this to their own child is one of the biggest sins.

Hopefully the yes vote has had a knock on effect and made people more accepting and open minded to not just the gay community but every minority. To those with disbilities, travellers, different races etc. And also made people realise that people power works and that if people come together behind a cause we can make a difference 🙂 I think it also showed the world that we are no longer a country that are ruled by the church and are actually very progressive and open to changed.

P.S. Happy 1st Anniversary to my brother and his wife 🙂

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The problem with Inspiration Porn

Sorry to disappoint but this is nothing to do with porn, no nakedness here 😉

The term inspirational porn was coined by disability activist Stella Young (I have attached her Ted talk at the bottom of this post, read it. It explains the issue much better than i ever can) in a nutshell it describes a person who is seen as inspirational solely on the basis of their disability usually for carrying out simple everyday tasks. It is a very difficult term to explain as it raises many different issues, too many to explain in one blog post. It is also subjective, one person may find something offensive that another might not. Everyone is different, even disabled people. Each disabled or disfigured person is different, have different views and opinions- shocking I know!!

I have always hated being called an inspiration by strangers, when I was youngerstrangers used to come up to me in the street and tell me how inspirational I was. They didn’t know me, all I had done was walk down the street. That isn’t inspirational. They were making assumptions about my abilities and life without knowing anything about me. It made me feel uncomfortable and I found it very patronising. I was being objectified.

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Praising me or a disabled person for going to school, having a job, dong every day things assumes that people with disabilities or in my case disfigured are capable of much less than ‘normal people’. If someone genuinely achieves something amazing then I have no problem with the inspirational label but get to know a person first, hear their story don’t just assume by looking at them.

The athletes that take part in the Paralympics or Invictus games are inspirational as they have trained for years and are the best in their field, they are doing something that is not only challenging for disabled people but also for able-bodied people. They aren’t just inspirational for turning up on the day and smiling in their wheelchairs, they are achieving something.

We are not here to inspire ‘normal’ people, to look at me and think well if she can do it so can I implies that I am some how inferior and if I can do it then is obviously very easy. It diminishes and belittles my achievements and how hard I have worked to get there. I went to college, I obtained a degree and masters in law neither of which were easy. I interned in Washington DC and have had 11 jobs in the last 6 years (during a global recession), this was not easy for me and would not be easy for a ‘normal’ person either.

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Im not here to make someone else feel better about the deal they have been dealt or remind you that it could always be worse. You are assuming that my life is somehow worse than yours or unbearable, that is not true i have a great life, it is different but no less than anyone else’s.

Stating that a positive attitude can overcome anything is also damaging, I know that it has been proven that have a positive attitude helps people recover after accidents and illnesses but not everything can be achieved by being positive. Believeing that i am going to wake up with a normal face does not make it happen. Being positive is not going to help someone in a wheelchair get up a flight if stairs. It diminishes a person’s struggle and implies that it is not ok to not cope, to complain or ask for help, everyone complains and everyone finds life tough, why cant a disabled person?  It makes people who dont seem to be coping as well as others feel guity.

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Another type of inspirational porn are the memes or stories that praise ‘normal’ people for somehow being kind to a disabled person. I have seen many stories from America about disabled people being invited to prom but instead of speaking to the person with the disabiity or discussing disability they all focus on the able-bodied person who invited them to prom like they are taking on some kind or hardship and being selfless by inviting this pityful disabled person!! The disabled person is to be pitied and needs help. Or the stories which praise the partners of disfigured people for standing by them despite their disfigurement, this is patronising and implies that the disfigured person should be grateful because someone is interested in them.

As I previously said if people that know me or know what i have been through and achieved want to call me inspirational that is fine because they are making a judgement after they have gotten to know me as a person not purley on my face.  I do realise that people who call myself or disabled people inspirational are not trying to be cruel but it is enforcing a dangerous stereotype. A stereotype that says that disabled or disfigured people are to be either pitied or put on a pedestal but not never equal.

 

I have attached Stella’s Ted Talk below.