Burned at just 18 months old, Burn Survivor Tilly tells her story
As part of our ‘Burn Injury is for Life’ campaign, each month we’re sharing with you the inspiring story of a burn survivor. In April we’re proud to highlight the story of Tilly who was burned at just 18 months old when she pulled a kettle of freshly boiled water over herself, sustaining 33% burns to her body. Tilly initially spent two months in hospital following the incident. Here is Tilly’s story…
When I was little I really struggled to speak to anybody, I would be reluctant to make friends or participate in any social activity, I would even move my chair away from others at school! I used to ask my mum if I could ‘rip them off’, I just didn’t feel normal. I had to have operations for more skin grafts to take skin from different parts of my body – (which meant more scars) during crucial times such as during exams in school and had to spend my 10th birthday in the hospital. I found it difficult meeting new people because I knew they would want to ask what they were, and I’d have to tell the story every time. I didn’t buy certain clothes or want to go swimming, I was worried about being judged. Thankfully the majority of people were and are extremely accepting and it didn’t faze most! I realised growing up that my lack of confidence in speaking to people or speaking out loud, in general, stayed with me for years, I understand now that it is a mental trauma that I’ve had since I can remember and I labelled it as a ‘phobia of speaking’ and anxiety. I sometimes still struggle to speak to people one to one and when people meet me now they would probably not believe this story, because I’ve now managed to develop a persona to carry me through public speaking and presenting. Almost like an alter ego!
I followed my passion for animals and I decided at a young age I wanted to make a difference to help them, so I dedicated my time through school, college, university and gained experience to get me where I am today. Thanks to the support from my family and the Pinderfields burns club, I was able to grow and develop mentally and realise that I wasn’t alone. I have only truly felt myself in the last 5 years and since then I have worked in several zoological collections caring for many different species! I then devoted my time in trying to overcome my phobia and speaking trauma and realised that my personality shines through everything. I am such a positive and optimistic person every single day and I let that shine through in my work, since then my biggest audience has been 10,000 people – presenting for Peter Andre, continuing on to other artists such as S club, Big Brovas & Booty luv, Union J, Heather Small and then to all of my daily animal displays and presentations too! I have also started presenter training for other major companies as well as my normal day to day animal care role. If someone had said to me I would be doing this 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it. I consider myself to be so lucky every single day and I am who I am because of the burns on my chest, and I would not change that for the world.
I am now surrounded by an incredible circle of family and friends and my partner whom I am engaged to, and they saw the light in me when I didn’t see it myself. I have not disclosed this story to many, but I hope you can use it to inspire others and I hope it makes a difference because as long as I am making a positive difference, I am happy.
Thank you so much to Tilly for sharing her story with us.