KATIE PIPER

Post courtesy of ABCNews.go.com

KATIE PIPER

Location: UK

Date Of Injury: 1996

British model Katie Piper was raised in a small English village by a loving family. At 22, she moved out on her own to London to further her career as a television presenter.

A self-described “party animal,” Piper quickly made friends and enjoyed the London nightlife. Her best friend, Kay Little, said that men were instantly attracted to Piper. “She was physically very beautiful and we would go out to a bar or to a club or just shopping and heads would turn,” Little said.

In the late afternoon of March 31, 2008, Piper was attacked with sulfuric acid by a complete stranger on the street outside a London cafe. Security cameras captured her running across the street — virtually blinded and desperate for help. Finally, someone called the police and Piper was rushed to the hospital.

The attack left Piper horribly disfigured. The acid destroyed the skin on her face, neck and hands; when she arrived at the hospital, she was missing an ear, parts of her nose and was blind in one eye.

Led by Dr. Mohammad Jawad, doctors at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London embarked on a revolutionary new type of treatment. They mixed thin strips of a synthetic skin substitute called Matriderm with tiny squares of real skin stripped from Katie’s back. The combination was then layered onto Piper’s face, which slowly began to take shape.

Piper was not only splashed in the face with acid, but she also swallowed some, which badly damaged her esophagus and stomach. “The nature of the acid, it was eating across and eating down and, it was like… a race against time, there was so much panic,” Piper later said of the incident.

To manage the pain, Piper spent days going in and out of a medically induced coma. After seven weeks in the burns unit and a stint in intensive care, she was released from the hospital.

Piper’s recovery was long and difficult. At home, she was forced to wear a plastic mask 23 hours a day to help her wounds to heal.

After the major skin graft on her face, Piper required 30 more procedures. But it seemed that there was no end in sight — a fear Katie voiced to her mother.  “That is what my life is, recovery. You wouldn’t understand because it didn’t happen to you. I’ve never in my life been like this, where there is no point waking up,” she told her mother Diane.

Piper and mother Diane went to a rehab unit in the South of France in August 2008. The facility provides burn patients with intense, scar management treatments.

As part of her rehabilitation in the France, Piper worked on improving her facial muscle dexterity.

Eighteen months after she was burned beyond recognition, Piper went for her first evening out since the attack. “I never dreamed that we’d see her like that again,” said her sister Suzy. “And so to look at her I just thought that it’s Kate again. She’s, she’s back, you know. And it was so nice.”

Piper first told her story in a British television documentary, “My Beautiful Face,” which she said gave her the platform to rebuild her life. She hopes to inspire others and wants to help other burn victims receive the same extensive rehab that she did.

A jury found Stefan Sylvestre, the man who threw the acid guilty of causing bodily harm. He received a life sentence, with a minimum of 12 years in prison. Danny Lynch, Piper’s former boyfriend who orchestrated the attack was sentenced to two life sentences, and will serve at least 16 years in jail.