Adele suffered third degree burns at 15, now she’s studying medicine
She had dreams of becoming a dancer
by ellie beach
Adele featured in The Tab Newcastle’s ‘Most Inspirational Women’ in February this year. She is a third year accelerated medic, who suffered third degree burns over 42 per cent of her total skin surface, when she was 15. The Tab interviewed her, and this is her inspirational story.
At the age of 15, Adele’s dream was to become a dancer. She was well on track with this, studying Ballet at Tring Arts Educational School. Until in December 2005, a seizure in the shower caused her to fall, knocking the cold tap off and leaving her unconscious under streams of hot water. What followed was a 2-year recovery process of operations, skin grafts, physiotherapy and constant wearing of pressure garments.
Not only was the medical process tough and painful, Adele also had to come to terms with the fact that her teenage body was now covered in scars, and the accident meant she would probably never achieve her ambition of becoming a dancer. But these blows to her self esteem and confidence do not define her anymore: this incredible girl has steered her life onto a new track.
Her ambition now is to become a surgeon, specialising in burns. In her free time, Adele has become involved in the Katie Piper foundation, appeared on TV, raised money around uni and released a charity single, all with the motivation of changing mind sets and proving to the world that scars will not stop her. Here’s what she has to say:
If you could tell 15 year old you anything, straight after the accident what would it be?
I would probably say just do everything exactly the same, to be honest. I’m happy with where I am now, so I wouldn’t want to change too much. The only bit of advice after it happened would be while your hair is growing back in do everything you want with it, try every colour, every style, go wild and enjoy! Oh, and that the doctors were lying when they said it might come back curly, apparently that can happen.
What advice would you give girls about appearance, and conforming to society’s expectation of themselves?
That’s a hard one because obviously the advice you’re always given is to not worry what other people think, it’s what you think and that’s all well and good but in our society there is a huge emphasis on conforming. Everyone wants to look a certain way and fit in with the group, and if you think that you’re not fitting in and it’s a reason you don’t like about yourself then it’s the worst thing ever. It’s not necessarily advice but I think I would just say be patient with it. It takes time to like yourself, or at least, it’s taken me a bloody long time to like myself. You can’t help but be yourself eventually, so why fight it? All of the norms we are expected to conform to are so unbelievably unachievable. Why do we put pressure on ourselves to do something that is only applicable to half a percent of the population?
What are you proudest of in your life?
I think for me I like to do things. So there’s a lot of achievements I’m proud of, but I’m just proud of getting back to normal. Before the accident, I was training to become a professional ballet dancer, spent most of my life in a leotard and a pair of tights. Going into hospital and suddenly looking so different and not having the movement in my arm made my life suddenly not what I wanted it to be. I think a lot of people in that situation just accept that they are disabled, and behave differently and their whole outlook on life changes. I didn’t want to become a different person after my accident, I just wanted to get back to my original track. Also getting to the point where I could wear whatever I wanted and my burns, and people’s opinions of the burns didn’t play a part in choosing clothes, that was a big one too.
How does the anniversary of the accident affect you? Do you do anything in particular?
Oh my ‘Burniversary’, it’s the best day ever! I have a whole playlist of songs, most of which involve the words burns or flames and disco inferno is played every year, without fail! To be honest, it started because the first year I woke up to the sound of an ambulance siren and I thought ‘oh my gosh its happened again, what have I done’, I got so worried. And then during the day my mum was so mopey and I just thought this will happen every single year and I can’t deal with that, so I decided to mock the hell out of it! There’s usually some form of toasting marshmallows, or one year we had those paper lanterns that became really popular after the film Tangled. Something flame related always goes on. My brother also got married on my Burniversary one year, after the first dance he got all of his groomsmen up to dance to disco inferno!
Is there any group of people who really helped you in your recovery?
It sounds clichéd, but my mum is up there. She got me through most things to be honest. She is the person I can be my worst person around. I used to hold my emotions in check for 2 or 3 months, and put on this brave face and then suddenly out of nowhere I would have a mini breakdown. And she was always there through those times. I was able to let my guard down around her. I also had a friend at school who is still one of my closest friends, Rachel. And I wanted to get back to being normal as quickly as possible, so I went back to boarding at my school, but I was terrified of using the showers. There was only one bath in my house and it was up on the top floor with all the year 7s in so I had to go up there and use their bath! But Rachel really helped me to overcome that, she spent hours with me sitting outside the cubicles, just getting me used to being there, sitting in the cubicle chatting without turning the water on and then when I finally felt able to have a shower she would sit outside and talk to me all the time. She was a massive help.