Introducing September’s Guest Editor: Katie Piper

A special issue from the presenter who underwent pioneering facial reconstruction after surviving an acid attack.

By Justin Quirk
photographs by Dan Kennedy
Published 15 Aug 2018, 08:45 BST
Katie Piper started her foundation a year after surviving a 2008 sulphuric acid attack. She will ...
Katie Piper started her foundation a year after surviving a 2008 sulphuric acid attack. She will soon open a residential burn and scar rehabilitation centre.
Photograph by Dan Kennedy

“When your appearance is drastically transformed in an instant, it’s life-changing.” So begins Katie Piper’s opening letter in the new National Geographic, a special issue guest edited by the philanthropist, television presenter and former model. Piper’s own experience of being attacked with acid and then undergoing pioneering surgery to reconstruct her face and restore her vision has defined not just her work, but her entire approach to life. “It can be an isolating experience,” she writes. “You feel one way on the inside but look completely different on the outside.”

Piper writes about the complex procedures she underwent, involving dermal substitutes, sheets of collagen and elastin, and skin grafts from other parts of her body. These were techniques developed only three years earlier, but these themselves may be superseded with the advance of stem cell research – a field which holds the possibility that scientists may in time be able to grow replacement skin and regenerate cells for any part of the human body.

However, as Piper writes, the physical reconstruction of a person is only one part of the story–there are also psychological and post-traumatic issues that need to be addressed, with patients requiring ongoing therapeutic support. With this in mind, she established the Katie Piper Foundation.

Now more than 200 surgeries into her recovery, Piper takes a long view of what she has been through, and the issues it led her to cover while editing this issue of National Geographic. “I’ve accepted that my old face is gone. I’ve realised that recovery takes a long time and that not every operation will go to plan. My perception of beauty has changed over the years, and it’s no longer focused on aesthetics.”

The September 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine, is on sale from 5th September.


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