In 2018 Sal was living in the North of England with his wife and teenage son. He had a busy life working as an engineer and loved to spend his weekends cycling and volunteering in the local community. In June he took a trip to Yemen to visit his father and brothers and to catch up with extended family and friends.
After spending a couple of days in the city, Sal and his family decided to make a trip to their home village in the desert. Mindful of the poorly maintained, badly lit roads and army checkpoints, Sal took the drive slowly, chatting with his brothers and young nephew, with the windows down in the warm evening air. In an instant everything changed, Sal remembers seeing headlights coming towards him, hearing a bang as a van crashed and feeling burning as a barrel of acid from the back of the van showered through the open window on to him and his family. Struggling to see and with no water to douse the acid, Sal and his family were put in the back of a taxi. Over the next 2 hours, in agony, they traveled to five hospitals until they found somewhere able to treat their burns on just a very basic level. Sal had severe burns on his face and body. After five days in hospital, with very little support and no specialist burns care, Sal was desperate to get back home and booked himself on to a plane back to the UK. Sal’s wife met him in Jordan and they flew the eight hours back to Manchester together.
Upon arrival at Manchester, Sal was rushed to Wythenshaw Hospital, after 2 days he was transferred to the RVI Newcastle and into intensive care where the burns staff battled to save his life. With 37% burns to his body and face and only a scarf to cover his burns whilst in Yemen his wounds were badly infected. Having already lost an ear and much of the sight in one eye, doctors made the heart breaking decision to remove the other eye to save him from life threatening infection. For the next 9 weeks Sal stayed in intensive care having specialist burns treatment, he had over 10 operations in an attempt to reduce the damage done by the burns. Finally Sal went home and now registered blind, he began facing the realities of a life with severe burns. He learned to walk again, to feed himself and to begin to cope with the trauma of what he had experienced.
In December 2019 Sal came to stay for a month at The Katie Piper Foundation Rehabilitation Centre. His goal was to improve his fitness and regain his independence. His scars were tight from his skin grafts and he couldn’t move one of his arms much at all, he was also struggling with his confidence and daunted by going out in public on his own. During his rehabilitation month, Sal had regular sessions of physiotherapy and specialist treatments to help ease his scars and improve their feel and texture. He worked with our personal trainers, trying boxing for the first time to improve his freedom of movement and his core strength. He was supported with his wellbeing through therapy and was encouraged and challenged to do things on his own, he began taking trips into the local town on the bus and talking to new people, all the time making small steps towards regaining his independence.
Sal gave his all to his rehabilitation and the staff were there to support him every step of the way, ensuring that his month was spent in the most beneficial way possible. The progress he made was transformational, the staff were amazed at his courage and sheer determination to reclaim his life and become independent again. By the end of his month Sal’s confidence had rocketed and with a renewed optimism for the future he returned home, confident in his ability to start living his life again, ready for what the future could offer him and most importantly back on his bike and cycling again.
On 10th December 2019 the Katie Piper Foundation team headed off to the ICAP Charity Day, the proceeds of which will become the Katie Piper Foundation’s largest ever corporate gift. Hosted by ICAP, the world’s largest interdealer broker, all of the revenues and commissions from the day are donated to charities across the globe. This year an amazing £4.6 million was raised worldwide.
This was such an exciting opportunity for us to raise funds for the development of a new rehabilitation cottage in the grounds of Fairfield Independent Hospital, home to our Rehabilitation Centre. The cottage will provide a standalone space for gym equipment, wellbeing activities and physiotherapy sessions where survivors of burns and scars can exercise in private to improve their fitness levels.
On the day, our team including Katie Piper and Claudia Winkleman, hit the phones to speak to ICAP’s customers and close deals supported by the ICAP team all in fancy dress. The room was packed full, with lots of charities and their celebrity supporters participating, we chatted to Gareth Southgate and Jodie Kidd amongst lots of others, it was a fun, action packed day full of people doing great work to change the lives of others.
Katie Piper Foundation’s Head of Fundraising and Communications Carla Cornwell summed up the day ‘We were so grateful to be part of such an amazing event, run by a team full of heart. The ICAP trading day is the biggest charity event in the City of London and supports some of the smallest charities, like us. It is a huge amount of fun as well as raising a staggering amount of money. The donation we will receive will be create a place where the survivors of burns and scars can continue their journey to a fulfilled life.’
We’re announcing not one but two fantastic job vacancies at The Katie Piper Foundation – Head of Rehabilitation and Patient Support Worker, both working within a tight knit team lead by Katie Piper, a committed Chair of Trustees and a highly experienced Charity Director.
I work in The Katie Piper Foundation Rehabilitation Centre in Merseyside. The centre is residential and supports the survivors of burns after their acute NHS care is finished. Survivors come to stay with us, typically for one month and I see them every morning, working with them to improve their fitness and help ease the impact of their, often very severe, burns and scars.
When people first come into the centre we work with them to draw up a list of goals covering what they want to achieve during their time with us. We review these goals on a weekly basis, ensuring that each person receives the most appropriate support for them during their stay. Although everyone’s goals are different there are usually common themes that run through them. Often people have been in hospital for weeks and even months so improving their fitness is usually a priority. Many also want to concentrate on increasing freedom of movement in a particular area, often restricted due to tight scarring and skin grafts, overarching things such as improving confidence and increasing independence are always key goals.
There is a whole team here working on different aspects of rehabilitation. My role involves working to support survivors using physiotherapy. This encompasses a few different activities depending on their specific goals. I am usually with someone for a whole morning, I will start off working on their overall fitness and core strength, improving fitness is essential in the journey back to health. I might do some pilates with them or some circuits and balance work as well as exercises to improve their muscle tone and function. I help them to work out on our multi gym, this records their fitness levels so we can track their progress and they can see how the effort they are putting in is paying off. Often people have very specific goals, such as improving their balance in walking up and down the stairs and we will work on specific exercises for this.
For the second half of the morning I will work on more hands on physiotherapy, using massage to increase mobilisation and to improve specific areas. Sometimes people have back or neck problems caused by tight scarring and I will work to manipulate the area, easing out muscles and skin, just giving even a bit more flexibility can really help relieve painful areas. We also have some fantastic massage machines, these work like a vacuum to lift the skin, they help to ease the tightness of scars and improve the collagen in the skin which in turn improves the health of the skin, these are universally popular and everyone loves the impact they have on their scars.
It’s always amazing to me what a difference a month can make, survivors work so hard while they are with us and show such dedication in their recovery that the improvements to their physical health are usually significant. The centre really works to bring them out of themselves, they feel able to do things that they couldn’t before. But more than that, we understand the importance of empowering people during their stay, they leave us more confident and happier in themselves, but also able to continue their activities at home and therefore to maximise their recovery and to be more independent in their lives again. After the extreme trauma many of them have been through it’s great to be able to play a part in that.