Natalie McGill’s Story
When I was 18 months old, I was involved in a scalding accident causing 33% burns to my body. As I grew up I struggled not only physically, but mentally too. I didn’t understand why I was so different to the other children. I struggled to adapt socially and didn’t feel comfortable partaking in group activities in school, public speaking was especially a battle to overcome.
A lot of my childhood was spent in and out of the hospital, scheduling multiple operations for skin grafts and manipulating the burns so that they would grow with me – as most of them are over my chest and left shoulder, every growth spurt meant another operation.
I was introduced to Burns Club when I was in primary school, it was recommended to me as a last resort to try and help me cope with the mental blocks and trauma that the burns had caused. As a child I always felt that I had something taken away from me and I would never get it back – I always struggled with the aspect of people not being content with their appearance, as I knew it was something that they themselves could easily change if they had set their mind to it. But for me, the scars were there forever. I could not change that. And that prospect took a long time for me to cope with. Looking back, I am thankful, because it makes me appreciate what I do have and not what I may have lost in the past.
Becoming a member of a Burns Club felt like more of a community than a club, it was filled with dedicated volunteers, specialists and most of all – children just like me. It was a charity that I felt lucky to be a part of. I met children with burns just like me, some were more severe, some were older and some were very young. But we all connected in the same way. The friends I met when I was 6 – I still keep in contact with now – which is incredible. Each year I’d look forward to the different events and activities the club would organise. My favourite was the week long camping trip in the summer– we would do the most amazing activities! From kayaking to rock climbing to arts and crafts. We’d all talk to each other about our experiences without judgement. Everyone felt accepted. Confidence grew and I no longer felt ashamed, I loved telling everyone at school about all of the activities we’d do and the children at school were fascinated. A lot of them thought my scars were pretty cool and I’d always prepare myself for the questions, but I didn’t dread them like I usually would. As I got older and moved up to high school, college, university and even onto my dream job – I knew that these questions were coming, and I prepared myself for them. Thankfully I’ve always been surrounded by a positive support system – my family, my friends and my partner have always loved and supported me regardless and it just shows. The scars and the trauma can not and will not stop anyone from following their dreams, because personality shines through everything.
My last burns camp came when I turned 17, my last operation came when I turned 18. And 10 years later, I could not be more thankful for the Burns Club.
So thank you for being such a positive experience and attribute to my life.