Former model Katie Piper – maimed in an acid attack set up by an ex-boyfriend – is to speak at the CSP’s Physiotherapy UK 2012 event. Lynn Eaton asks her about burns rehabilitation
LE: After reading your book Beautiful, I was horrified at what happened to you, but full of admiration at your recovery. How did setting up your Foundation help in that?
KP: It’s been really important. It put things into perspective for me to meet other people, share experiences and discover how other people have rebuilt their lives.
What role did your physios play in helping you cope?
Physios were a massive part of not just my physical rehabilitation, but my mental recovery. As well as helping me with the functional side of my injuries, they were there to talk to me when
I needed someone to listen and even sometimes they would just sit in silence with me – to just be there which was comforting and reassuring.
Although I did see a psychologist, the physios treated me like a person, talked to me, asked me how I was feeling. They were, as professional people, constantly optimistic and encouraging and there to pick you up on a down day.
Even when you felt you’d not made progress, they would pick up on the smallest piece of improvement or something positive and reinforce that. So as well as my physical injuries the physios were invaluable to sustaining my morale.
What did you know about physiotherapy before now?
I didn’t know anything. When the thought of a physio came into my head before it would have been within the field of sport, on the football or rugby pitch. I didn’t realise, particularly in burns rehabilitation, that a physio is as important as the surgeon. One without the other is almost pointless.
What do you know about it now?
Now I know that physios are amazing people. You hear a lot about the brave doctors and nurses, especially with people coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq, but there’s also a lot of brave physiotherapists.
If it wasn’t for physios I wouldn’t have got my life back so I think they are amazing and special people.
What are you hoping to achieve by setting up the Foundation?
Our sole focus is rehabilitation. We believe that burns rehabilitation is a multi-disciplinary approach which can often be led by the physios.
We hope that having a physio – RuthAnn Fanstone – on board will bring experience, expertise, forward thinking and an open and innovative mind to help improve the existing rehabilitation in this country.
We don’t just want to set up a rehab centre. We want to be here to support rehab constantly.
What messages do you have for the public about the role physios can play?
If you’re thinking of becoming a physio it’s a wonderful job to do and it would touch many people’s lives. It’s very much a necessary profession.
It’s incredibly hard work at university and it takes a certain type of person who is prepared to do that. I have a huge amount of respect for physiotherapists.
What message do you have for our members about their role?
Physios are working to budgets, time constraints, with many patients and they’re doing a brilliant job.
They may not realise that just them being there is a huge help and motivation – never underestimate the power and comfort that your company gives your patients. fl
If you want to read more about Ms Piper’s story, her book Beautiful tells her story before and after the acid attack.
The Katie Piper Foundation aims to make it easier for people to live with burns. For more information on the Foundation, visit: www.katiepiperfoundation.org.uk
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