A burns survivor who was nicknamed ‘burnt chicken’ by horrible bullies is baring her scars for the first time, to show how they make her a ‘strong and sexy woman’.
23-year-old Narika Bladen has severe scarring from third degree burns down her entire right leg and across her stomach and right arm, after a horrific accident in the bath aged just six months old.
Boiling water ‘melted her skin’ and left her stuck to the bath, meaning she spent six months on life support in hospital and didn’t come home for two years.
Throughout her childhood, Narika underwent more than a hundred skin grafts and spent so much time in hospital instead of school that she couldn’t read, write or tell time properly until she was 16.
Her scars, which cause immense physical pain to this day, have also taken an emotional toll as Narika has been severely bullied.
But now, after years of feeling ‘ashamed’ of her burns, Narika is bravely baring all to inspire other survivors to be proud of their scars as they show the world ‘you survived’.
Narika, of Cwmbran, Wales, said: ‘I think I was about six the first time I realised it wasn’t normal to have scars.
‘I was getting changed for school and I looked at my skin and understood I wasn’t born this way.
‘Other kids would bully me and call me burnt chicken because of my scars. They would tell me my mum mistook me for a chicken when she burnt me.
‘People had always stared at me. When I was about eight, I went to the swimming baths and two old ladies told me I shouldn’t be there. It was horrible.
‘It has been really hard. I’ve really struggled with my self-confidence and self-worth.
‘For years I was ashamed of my scars. I never felt beautiful because of them and I felt like I had to hide them from the world.’
Narika’s mum had placed Narika in the bath with the water still running when her older sister Kanisha cried out from downstairs, as she’d jammed her fingers in a door.
In a panic, the girls’ mum rushed to help Kanisha but when she came back into the bathroom just moments later, the tub had filled with hot water with Narika still inside.
Narika’s dad came home to his wife’s screams as she struggled to get their baby girl out the bath because her ‘melted skin’ was stuck to the plastic.
The terrified parents finally managed to lift Narika from the water and she was rushed to hospital.
Narika said: ‘The water was so hot it even melted off my toe nails. I don’t have any left.
‘When they managed to get me out, all my skin came off. They thought I was going to die.
‘The whole of my life, I’ve been in and out of hospital. It’s my second home.’
The scar tissue across her stomach and down her right leg pulls on the surrounding skin which leaves Narika in agony most days.
Narika is unemployed as the scarring on her leg pulls so much she cannot walk or stand for more than a few minutes.
But the 23-year-old is refusing to give up and has just endured her first round of painful laser surgery in the hopes it will break down some of her scar tissue and improve her mobility.
Narika said: ‘I can’t do most things. I can’t go to the gym, I can’t walk for a long time. Day to day activities are quite painful.
‘I’m in a lot of pain most the time because my scars pull on my skin. Where the scars on the back of my leg pull, they hurt so much I can’t stand for very long.
‘My friends come round to help me with the cooking and around the house because I can’t stand for long enough to do things.
‘It feels like I’ve banged against something really hard – but ten times worse. It’s like I’m covered in bruising.
‘Hopefully the laser surgery will help break down the scar tissue.
‘It is really painful. It feels like someone is dragging a hot needle across my scars but I survived the first round which I’m really proud of.’
Narika’s determination doesn’t stop there, as she now wants to inspire other burns survivors to accept their scars.
Despite years of bullying and people staring at her in the street, Narika has learnt to embrace her scarring with the help of her friends and family.
Instead of hiding her body under tights and layered clothing, Narika wants to show the world that she is proud of her scars.
Narika said: ‘I took me years to accept my scars and be proud of them.
‘I didn’t want people to stare at me so I would never wear skirts without tights – even in the summer. I’d be boiling.
‘I have struggled with boyfriends because I felt like I needed to warn them about my scars before they saw them.
‘But after so many years of trying to hide, I realised that I needed and deserved to be seen.
‘My friends have been a huge help. They’re so supportive it’s amazing. They have been there to pick me up every time my insecurities have got me down.
‘And my sister Kanisha has been amazing too. She always tells me I’m beautiful as I am.
‘It has taken time but now I am so proud of my scars. They made me who I am today and they show people how strong I am.
‘People still stare and they always will but now I don’t let it get me down. I feel awesome. I feel beautiful and sexy. I feel amazing.
‘A scar tells a story and it’s a story that says ‘I survived’. I am so proud to have survived everything I’ve been through.
‘Every burns survivor should be so proud. They shouldn’t let their scars or how other people look at them define them.
‘We survived and we are here for a reason.’
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