Friendship was key to helping these four burn victims love the skin they are in after forming an unbreakable bond
These four brave women all suffered horrific burns when they were children and spent their childhood in and out of hospitals getting surgery
FOR these four women, friendship is more important than ever.
Having all suffered horrific burns as children, their younger years were spent in and out of hospitals as they became used to others staring at their scars.
Friendship is the most important thing for these four women Tatyana, Saffron, Raiche and Laura
But after meeting at a camp for burns survivors eight years ago in Huntingdon, Cambs, they formed an unbreakable bond that has helped each of them to learn to love the skin they are in.
Here, they tell KELLY STRANGE they are proud to wear their scars as badges of courage – and how they want to empower women to be more body confident.
Tatyana feels proud of what she has achieved thanks to the support from her girl gang
THE stylish 18-year-old student is single and the youngest of the group.
Tatyana from Harlesden, North West London feels proud of all she has achieved with the help of her girl gang, family and support workers.
She says: “I was eight years old when I caught fire playing with a lighter I found at home.
“I remember vividly seeing my clothing catch fire.
Tatyana was eight years old when she caught fire and got 50 to 70 per cent burns
“For some reason I knew instinctively that I had to roll on the floor to try to put it out – maybe I had seen it on TV.
“I also ran to the bathroom and doused myself in water. Mum immediately called an ambulance and after that the rest is a blur.
“Despite having 50-70 per cent burns, I do remember that what upset me most was my hair had gone.
“I had beautiful long hair extensions that my nan had treated me to, but they melted in the flames.
“I had endless skin grafts and when I finally came home I was angry and depressed. I felt so insecure about my burns but I didn’t speak to anyone about what I was feeling.
The 18-year-old met the other girls at burn camp when she was 13
“It was only after meeting the girls at camp aged 13 that things started to change.
“I looked up to the older girls like Raiche and Laura. They were so happy and confident, I wanted to be like them. They were proud of their scars and, as I grew closer to them, I began to see that I could be, too.
“Inspired by them and all the other amazing people I met, I wore shorts for the first time ever aged 15.
“After each holiday with the girls, I’d come home feeling more empowered.
Tatyana says the other women she met have inspired her
“We went away to a spa in Wales this year and hit another milestone. We took a photo together showing our scars and posted it online, which was a huge step.
“That weekend, we also went swimming in public for the first time. Now I wear whatever I want and I love fashion.
“We are all individual and, thanks to my amazing girlfriends, I know it is confidence that makes you beautiful, not how you look.”
THE 20-year-old psychology student from Portsmouth is hoping to use her own story as motivation to inspire others once she finishes her studies at Southampton University.
Saffron says: “I was four years old when I was spinning in front of a fire at home.
“There was no fire guard and as my skirt flared out, it caught the flames. I called for my mum who ran downstairs and managed to put me out by carrying me to the sink.
“Neighbours had heard our screams and called an ambulance.
“I’d suffered 28 per cent full-thickness burns to my mid-section and I was in hospital for three months.
“Skin grafts became the norm for me but that hasn’t stopped me growing up happy and confident.
The 20-year-old said she met other women at the camp who had burns that were worse than her’s but they were still living life to the fullest.
“I know that is thanks to the amazing people I met and the incredible friends I made at burns camp.
“There were girls with burns worse than mine and yet they were living life to the full.
“As well as getting together and having fun, the camps also had a serious side and enabled us to speak to psychologists about our injuries.
“I won’t pretend that I’ve never felt self-conscious when people stare but thanks to my girlfriends, I know how to handle it.
“The opportunity to meet such wonderful people at the camp was life changing and I know we will be friends forever.
“We get together once or twice a year and speak all the time. We have taught each other it’s our inner beauty that counts.
“I’m hoping to qualify as a psychologist so that I can help others in the same way.”
THE 25-year-old inspirational administrator and blogger from Chingford, East London, set up the R-Chaie Foundation this year to help support adult burns victims and raise money for residential weekends and days out.
She says: “I was too young to remember the accident which changed my life.
“I was 18 months old and my brother was three when a fire broke out in the bedroom we were playing in.
“I’m told we had been playing with matches when a neighbour saw smoke billowing from the room.
“Firemen rescued us and we were rushed to hospital. I suffered 70 per cent burns and my brother 30 per cent.
“My burns were so severe that the toes on my left foot and the fingers on my right hand had to be amputated.
“We both spent months in hospital and afterwards, life revolved around surgery and physiotherapy.
“I was six when I was invited to my first burns camp, to help children and their families adapt to life. I loved it. It was an escape from the real world where people understood.
“Eight years ago, I met Saffron and we just clicked. It was the same when I met Laura and Tatty a few years later. I’m inspired by them and what they achieve.
“But it’s not just serious stuff – like all mates we have a good laugh together.
“We have such a close bond that we can even joke about our burns. We know we could never offend each other. Nothing is taboo.
“I wouldn’t be the happy, confident woman I am today without these girls.
“I set up the foundation to ensure adult burns survivors have the same chance to make friends because I know how life-changing it can be.
“Everyone deserves to feel as sassy and sexy as we do.
“My boyfriend who I’ve been with for 18 months is always telling me how beautiful I am.
“Now I treat my scars like beauty spots – because they make me who I am.”
THE encouragment of the other girls has helped Laura, a nanny from Caerphilly, South Wales, to come out of her shell. Along with her family and boyfriend of 11 months Ethan Oliver, 24, a lorry driver, the 25-year-old can be proud of who she is.
She says: “I was 16 months old when a friend of my biological mother put me in a bath of scalding water. My mother was out at the time.
“I’d incurred 50 per cent burns from my stomach to my toes and spent four months in hospital undergoing more than 100 operations.
“I was later adopted and my amazing parents did their best to help me feel confident but even with their love and support, I felt shy and self- conscious.
“At school, I preferred to have a couple of close friends because I was scared of being judged because of my burns. I wished I didn’t have them and tried to cover them.
“It was only when I started going to burns camps in my teens that changed. Finally, I didn’t feel alone.
The 25-year-old says the other girls have helped her give her strength
“When I saw what others had been through, it made me realise I was brave just like them. They wore clothes that showed their burns so it made me confident enough to as well.
“We touch each other’s burns and talk about them, whereas other friends try to pretend they don’t exist because they don’t know what to say.