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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Girl, 16, branded ‘burnt toast’ by bullies after horrific fire finally dares to bare her skin after EIGHT YEARS

By Daily Mail Reporter

Dare to bare: Vicky has had skin grafts and operations every year since the fire eight years ago

A girl who suffered burns to a third of her body and was called 'burnt toast' by school bullies, has bravely bared her scars for the first time this summer.

Vicky Chaundy, 16, was just eight years old when a fire broke out at her uncle's flat where she was visiting.

The blaze, which started in the pub below them, killed her two cousins and left her with burns from her neck to her stomach and on her hands and arms.

Her left hand was so badly burnt doctors initially wanted to amputate it and she has had skin grafts and operations every year since the accident.

After the fire Vicky was bullied at school for her appearance and until now she has always covered her scars with jumpers - even in hot weather.

But she made the brave decision to go out in T-shirts and dresses this summer.

'It's a day I thought I would never see and a really remarkable step forward,' said her mother Kim Knight, 42, from Dagenham, Essex.

'I'm incredibly proud that Vicky has decided to wear sleeveless tops and dresses again.

'Everyone has been saying how lovely she looks so hopefully this will be a fresh start for her.'

Vicky said she is determined to put the past behind her and has found a new confidence.

'I hated leaving the house as everyone would stare at me,' said Vicky.

'I was bullied at school and got called Freddy Krueger or burnt toast. I didn't go out much.

'Over the years I've grown stronger and learnt to live with my scars and not care so much about what people say.'

The fire broke out in July 2003 at the Prince of Wales pub in Stoke Newington, which was run by Vicky's uncle Kevin Knight, 52 and his wife Kate, 38.

One of the customers, Ronnie Springer, helped to rescue Vicky and an 11-year-old girl, who was also staying at the pub, by smashing a window and lowering them to safety.

The other girl escaped unhurt, but Vicky was taken to hospital, along with her five-year-old cousin Charlie. Her cousin Christopher, 10, died on arrival at the hospital. Charlie died the next day as did the man who rescued her after he fell from the pub window.

Still smiling: Vicky suffered third and fourth degree burns from her neck to her stomach and on her hands and arms

Vicky was put in an induced coma and over the following few days surgeons grafted skin from her back and legs on to the most badly affected burns.

Doctors also splinted her arms to keep them straight and stop the skin contracting.

'I was shocked when I had the phone call to say Vicky was in hospital and when I saw her lying unconscious on the bed I couldn't believe it,' said Mrs Knight.

'I couldn't touch or hold her as her body was so blistered and the doctors were worried the flames may have damaged her eye sight.

'I was thankful her face hadn't been burned but she was very ill and I was worried about how she would react to her injuries when she woke up.'

Two weeks later doctors brought Vicky out of her coma and the bandages were gradually removed. After three months in hospital she was finally allowed home, but had to have cream rubbed into her skin four times a day.

At home Vicky needed help dressing herself and even eating. She constantly had to go back to the hospital to have her dressings changed and for physiotherapy.

Since then she has had an operation nearly every year since the fire, including two skin grafts.

Fire investigators discovered the blaze had been started deliberately in the hallway after two paper towels soaked in accelerant had been set alight.

A woman was charged with manslaughter and arson, but eventually acquitted.

Meanwhile Vicky is putting her traumatic past behind her. She even wore a strappy gown to her school prom at the end of the term.

'I want to dress like my friends and not cover up any more. I know how lucky I am to be here and I'm determined to be a normal teenager,' she said.

Vicky is planning to start a health and social studies course at Havering College in London in September and become a nurse so she can help other burns victims.



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