Last Night’s TV – Katie: My Beautiful Face

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Channel 4’s Cutting Edge is of course renowned for bringing to our screens moving, emotive and thought provoking films, but this must be one of the most alternately desperately sad and incredibly inspiring that I’ve ever seen.

Katie Piper’s life changed when she was attacked; sulphuric acid was thrown in her face by way of revenge from a jilted boyfriend. He determined that he would ruin her life, and he tried, but ultimately, he hasn’t succeeded because for as much as Katie’s life is now very different, the surgeon, Mohammad Ali Jawad, who was hailed as a “medical miracle” is helping her piece back together her beautiful face.

And he’s done a remarkable job already, even though Katie still faces many more painful, frightening stages in her recovery from that vicious attack. During the programme, we saw Katie’s journey from just before the attack to present day, when the boyfriend who arranged the attack – and the attacker – were each given life sentences for what they did to Katie.

It’s really not enough because life doesn’t mean life in our justice system. It’s another issue for another day, but her attackers should suffer for as long as Katie does, and that’s going to be forever in some ways.

It’s very hard not to say, “this poor girl” when referring to Katie but I feel to do so would be patronising rather than sympathetic, but as a mother of a girl of Katie’s age, it’s very, very hard not to take a maternal standpoint. That said though, because of something that happened in my own life, I can also empathise with Katie’s anger and frustration that someone else has the power to radically alter everything you are.

In my case, my heart failure was induced by a prescription drug. My ‘attacker’ a faceless pharmaceutical company to whom I’m nothing more than ‘post-marketing data’. Those at the helm of that company will have no idea, nor care, what they’ve done to my life, how massive the change has been. And in Katie’s case, she too must rail against the fact that someone else is responsible for changing her life beyond recognition.

It causes a singular anger that’s hard to understand for someone who hasn’t had their entire world tipped on its axis by someone else.

But of course for Katie, it was personal, it was a vendetta and it was of course markedly more outwardly obvious in outcome, but the principle is the same on some levels. So if you should happen to be reading this Katie, I’d like you to know that I understood your frustration when you were talking to your wonderful mum in hospital about how your life is, or was, just a process of recovery.

And again, I’m hesitant to write the following words for they seem patronising and trite, but they aren’t meant to be; by losing her “beautiful face”, Katie’s beautiful personality has been fully realised, and it will take her far, in whatever she chooses to do.

She’s a wonderful, warm, intelligent young woman who’s been through more than many of us could ever comprehend, but by the end of the programme, her face was looking amazing. She was also beginning to take charge of – and banish – the fear that’s followed her like a shadow since the attack. She began to go out alone and returned to a love of clothes, make-up and hair. And it was intensely uplifting to watch.

Katie’s family are a very solid foundation from which she can take the strength needed to rebuild her life and reinvent herself, and though I cried at many of the scenes in this film, I’m so happy for Katie that she’s now had the justice she was so desperate for and can now begin the process of taking back her life.

But Katie’s mum, as she herself said in the film, must now go through the often very painful process of letting Katie go again. It’s hard for any mum to let go of the baby she inevitably sees in the face of her child, no matter that child’s age, but for Katie’s mum, it’s the second time around. But she too has a core of steel and I’m sure it will see her through the many dark moments.

The journey we witnessed in this film was a very personal one, and I feel a vote of thanks is due to Katie and her family for sharing it with us. I hope Katie will find everything she’s looking for and that her courage will be an inspiration to others. And I’m sure it will.

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