I Am More Than My Scars

September 26, 2013 · 1 comment

in Musings

I Am More Than My Scras

Six years ago today something happened that irrevocably changed my life forever. At around 11:30pm on a Thursday night I was hit by a car whilst crossing the road. The car drove off, the driver was never found and I was left for dead. According to witnesses from a pub over the road, the bang they heard as the car made impact with my body was so horribly loud that they ran outside to see what had happened, and found me lying in the road alone. I was momentarily knocked unconscious, and when I came to I remember looking up and feeling utterly confused by the group of people staring down at me. I tried to stand up and to get away from there and get on with what I’d been doing, which for the record was hailing a taxi to get myself to a Booty Call, but what I didn’t realise was that I’d broken my right leg in two places. What I did realise pretty quickly though was that I’d lost several teeth, and this I worked out when I spat them out into my hand along with a bubbling mouthful of blood and a few chunks of what felt like gristle. Some kind and thoughtful soul took what was left of my shattered teeth out of my cupped hand and handed them to the paramedics when they arrived, however it was already too late. I’d lost so much of my jaw bone that re-attaching them ended up being impossible and is the reason why for the next 4 years I wore a denture and why today I have a fixed bridge.

I remember that on that night I was wearing a white faux-fur coat that I’d bought from the Oxfam tent at Glastonbury the summer before. My Mum told me that when she collected my belongings from the hospital and the nurse handed her my coat in a plastic bag that she burst into tears because there was so much blood caked and matted into the fur that it looked like a slaughtered animal and brought it all home as to just how serious my accident had been. Thankfully our local Somerset dry-cleaners were able to do some kind of washing-voodoo because when I got that coat back a few months later it looked cleaner than it had in years! Sadly the same couldn’t be said for a much-loved pair of vintage boots that I’d been wearing. A paramedic mercilessly took a pair of no-messing-around-now scissors to those beautiful boots and they were cut off whilst I still had them on because the surgeons needed access to my right leg which had been crushed, broken and the flesh on the back of my right knee burnt off.

My injuries were extensive and I needed a great deal of corrective surgery. To fix my broken leg I had a tibia nail fitted that runs from my ankle to my knee, and much to everyone’s disbelief, it doesn’t go off in airports! To fix the back of my knee I had to have a skin graft. A plastic surgeon carved off a thick layer of skin from the top of my thigh just beneath my bum, called the donor site and in turn created another scar, and laid it onto the back of my knee to fuse together. I had to have dressings on both scars for months that my Dad had to change which in the beginning was awkward, seeing as the last time he would have seen my bum would have been when I was in nappies. My teeth were a whole different story, they took many years to be fixed, but to temporarily fix me I was fitted with a denture which when I went to sleep, I had to take out and leave in a glass by my bed. I left the hospital after a few weeks to be looked after by my parents in Somerset and after four months of convalescing I returned to work with two huge, deep mauve, lumpy scars on my leg, a slight limp when I walked, and wearing a denture.

If all this sounds quite gruesome I apologise, after re-telling this story so very many times over the years I’ve become a little desensitised and distant from what actually happened that night as I get asked about my accident on an almost daily basis so have told it many times over the years. Mainly because people are curious as to how, and why, I have an enormous scar on the back of my right leg and then want to know all of the gory details, of which there are many. Being totally honest I don’t really mind re-telling the story, that’s always been the easy part. The hard part has been accepting the conclusion of the story – my scars – and the internal pain I’ve carried around with me. My body isn’t the same body that I had before the accident, it doesn’t look the same or behave the same, and that’s been something I’ve struggled to come to terms with. I grew to hate the way I looked, and hate myself, and directed a lot of that negativity towards my scar. I saw my scar as a “thing”, an entity, an it, an extension of me that I quite frankly didn’t want anything to do with, rather than well, just my leg. The days I didn’t think about how horrible my leg looked and how ugly I was, were few and far between and I was constantly self-conscious. My self-esteem plummeted. The idea of anyone seeing my scars was inconceivable so for a long while I lived in jeans and biker boots and didn’t have the confidence to wear the riot of colour and print that I’d worn before. I no longer wanted to stand out, but instead, to blend into the background.

It was only when I went away on my first summer holiday since the accident that everything started to change. Save for wearing a Burkini I had no choice but to show off my scar. Utterly petrified by the prospect I panic-bought an obscene amount of sarongs, kaftans, floor-length cover-ups and anything that I could lay my hands on to hide the monstrous thing on the back of my leg. In the end I think I wore less than half of them. I slowly realised that no one else on the beach, at the hotel, by the pool or just about anywhere gave a hoot about me and my scar because it just didn’t matter to anyone else as much as it mattered to me, they didn’t see a scar they saw a leg and that leg was attached to me. Once I learnt that, I began to accept who I am and to love my scars for what they represent – courage, strength, luck, life and survival. I can’t deny that when I catch people pointing at, or staring, at my leg it doesn’t bother me because sometimes it does, but I remember that my scar doesn’t define me. It’s a part of me.

A few years ago I was reading a book, it’s called The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, and the lead character also suffers some fairly horrific injuries that require corrective skin grafts. Whilst he’s talking to a nurse about everything he’s endured, discussing how he’s going to move on with his life she turns around to him and says “We are who we are in life because of our scars”. After taking some time to mull over what she’s said a few days later he replies, “I am more than my scars”. That resonated with me so much that I had it tattooed on the back of my neck. It’s my motto. Six years ago today my life changed forever and I yes, I accrued some scars but I am so very, very much more than them.

This post is dedicated to the amazing staff at The Royal London Hospital who looked after me and helped me get back on my feet, quite literally. It’s also dedicated to my Mum and my Dad who nurtured and endured me whilst I recovered! It’s to Jennie for changing my flowers daily. To Craig, Andrea and Duncan who all answered a very bizarre phone call and came. To Nikki for the spaghetti hoops. To Derby for keeping your promise to be the first thing I saw when I came round from anaesthetic, and to every single one of my amazing and wonderful friends who came to see me in hospital and in Somerset. Most of all it’s to the man who I didn’t know six years ago but whom I can’t imagine my life without now, and without your constant unwavering support I don’t know who or where I’d be.

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