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Doctors saved my life ... then bullies made it a living hell; RICHARD HUGHES WAS LEFT: DISFIGURED AFTER HIS SKULL WAS SPLIT OPEN TO REMOVE A BRAIN TUMOUR.... AND THEN SUFFERED YEARS OF ABUSE BECAUSE OF HIS APPEARANCE.

Byline: OWEN HUGHES

ATEENAGER left badly disfigured after his skull was split open to remove a brain tumour has spoken of his torment at the hands of school bullies. When Richard Hughes was just six months old, surgeons performed the major operation to remove the cancer and save his life.

It left Richard, now 19, disfigured and he has undergone countless operations to reconstruct his face. His appearance left him the victim of constant bullying, which started as soon as he first attended his village primary school.

Richard, from Newborough, Anglesey, said: "My earliest memories from school are people calling me names, like Elephant Man and Michael Jackson. It started at an early age and never stopped.

"It reached a stage when I would dread going to school, I didn't like it at all.

"It affected my schoolwork, partly because I missed a lot of school because of operations and treatment and also as I could not concentrate on my work because of the bullying.

"The teachers were good. They tried to help but they couldn't stop the bullying - it just carried on in the playground. I was different so they picked on me, it made me an easy target for the bullies.

"I had it for so long I thought what they said was true. I didn't hit out, I just accepted it because I thought they were right. I had no confidence at all, and had no friends.

His tribute tattoo "My parents came in to school to try and sort it out but it never changed."

It was not just in school that his appearance would attract the attention of thoughtless bullies. He said: "I would also get abused in the street, just because I was different. My dad would get really angry about it. It hurt me, it really hurt."

After leaving primary school he went to Ysgol Gyfun Llangefni. "The bullying got worse when I went to high school, the name calling carried on and if anything just got worse," he said.

"I also missed so much school because of the operations - one year I was in hospital more than I was in school so that did not help when you are trying to make friends.

"I did have some friends though but the bullying continued by other people. I don't think people realised how much it hurt when they called me these names."

Richard then had a series of infections to his face and was advised by doctors to leave school. He was then home schooled until he was 16.

He said: "It was a relief really, it meant I could escape the bullying. It meant I was left with no friends though, just my family and close friends of the family."

Richard completed his GCSEs and was then turned down for a college course. He started a job as a trainee mechanic but had to leave due to having no sight in one eye.

The ravages of what he has been through means he can't work, but Richard has refused to live a life of leisure.

Instead he has become a dedicated volunteer at his youth club and community centre, Clwb Ni in Llangefni, organising countless activities and supporting young people with disabilities.

Richard, who lives with dad David, said: "I could have got down and just stayed in and given up. But I didn't want the bullies to win so I started volunteering.

"They accepted me for who I was at the youth club, the bullying and names stopped. There were lots of people who were different there, people just accepted it.

"I could also speak to them about my own experiences - I had been there myself so I knew what I was talking about."

The volunteering with the Anglesey Youth Service has given the teenager a confidence boost.

He said: "My life is different now, people who do not know me sometimes stare but I don't get any comments anymore.

to Alder Hey "People who once bullied me at school are now friends with me - I think they do regret what was said in school.

"More should be done to educate children in schools about difference so people don't suffer the same way.

"I'm pleased to see TV programmes recently which show people with disfigurement; it does more to raise the awareness of the hurt that is caused, the impact on people. People who called me these names probably didn't realise how much it hurt."

Sharon Lyn, an accreditation worker for Anglesey Youth Service, said: "Richard is an amazing person and a true role model for other young people. His dedication to volunteering and community service is unparalleled."

Richard's last operation took place in 2008 and he was finally discharged in May last year. He is so thankful to Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool for what they have done, he has even had a tattoo of the hospital logo and AHCH inked on his forearm.

CAPTION(S):

Richard Hughes, now 19, is a youth worker - 'I didn't want the bullies to win so I started volunteering,' he said His tribute tattoo to Alder Hey friends with me - I Richard aged four months, shortly before the operation to remove a brain tumour Cruel abuse got worse as Richard moved up to secondary school aged 11 Aged three before starting school, where his bullying ordeal began
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 5, 2011
Words:894
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