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Katie Piper shuns glamorous lifestyle as she opens burns rehabilitation unit; EXCLUSIVE: Speaking at the launch, where Simon Cowell and partner Lauren Silverman were among the guests, Katie, 35, says: "This is better than anything else, better than making a TV show or being on a magazine cover.".

Byline: Matt Roper

Few who have followed Katie Piper's story since she was burned in a horrific acid attack in 2008 could fail to be inspired by her courage and her determination to draw on her suffering to do good.

She set up a foundation to help others with burns, wrote self-help books and began a podcast telling survivors' stories, while also forging a successful career in TV and becoming a wife and a mum to two daughters.

But for 10 years, Katie was also quietly working away at her biggest project, setting up a burns rehabilitation centre.

It has now officially opened near St Helens in Merseyside.

Speaking at the launch, whereSimon Cowelland partner Lauren Silverman were among the guests, Katie, 35, says: "This is better than anything else, better than making a TV show or being on a magazine cover."

Katie, mum to Belle, five, and Penelope, two, says: "Except giving birth, I'm more proud about this than anything. I'm so proud of the team who made it happen. I could never have done this on my own.

"My life has many different parts -- sometimes it's glamorous, sometimes serious, sometimes fluffy, but for me this is the part that is most real.

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"And I prefer being here among people who have suffered disfigurements than anywhere else. It's harder for me to be at a red carpet event where I'm with people I will never be like.

"Here I'm around people who are like me, and people who are passionate about changing their lives."

She began dreaming of setting up the UK's first dedicated rehabilitation centre for burns patients soon after the acid attack, hoping to help others going through the same kind of ordeal.

The ground-breaking facility gives hope to people struggling to cope with life-changing disfigurements caused by burns, accidents and acid attacks.

It is in the grounds of Fairfield Independent Hospital and patients live in one of two on-site bungalows, nestled in the shade of tall oaks and sycamores.

A short stroll away, a rehabilitation room is fitted with state-of-the-art equipment and manned by a team of professionals, including physios and counsellors, ready to help people overcome their injuries and move on.

Patients will receive intensive physiotherapy treatment in the mornings, as well as scar management therapy, using cutting-edge equipment rarely available for burns survivors.

The centre has an LPG endermologie skin massage machine, one of just two in the UK, which uses suction to lift up scars during treatment to improve their appearance and reduce itching.

A computerised system helps replicate everyday actions which burns survivors might find difficult, such as driving, using a vacuum cleaner or even making sandwiches, allowing patients to grow in strength as they practise.

In the afternoons, patients take part in activities which, as well as continuing their physiotherapy treatment, help them grow in self-confidence, such as swimming, rock climbing, kayaking and horse-riding. The treatment costs around [pounds sterling]24,000 per patient and is entirely funded by private donations.

The Katie Piper Foundation Burns Rehabilitation Centre quietly opened its doors back in January, welcoming patients to help develop its services. It now aims to treat 20 burns patients in the first 12 months of opening.

Those who have already benefited include Amber Quilter and Amy Wilson, two friends burned in an accident while they were on holiday in Dubai in 2017.

Amber, 29, suffered 54% burns and Amy, 26, 56% to their legs and arms. After months of treatment at an NHS hospital near their home in Chelmsford, Essex, both women were sent home without ongoing physiotherapy.

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Amber says: "I had trouble doing the simplest things, like feeding or washing myself, and Amy was in a wheelchair. We didn't go out much and suffered from depression and fatigue as a result of our injuries.

"One of our consultants heard about Katie's centre and put us in touch.

"We spent four weeks here. Before long we were doing things we didn't think we could do, like running, skiing, swimming and horse riding.

"We just needed someone to give us guidance and encouragement.

"Being here made us both physically stronger and more confident.

"When we arrived back home everyone noticed the difference, even how much our scars had faded."

Katie says that, far from bringing back painful memories, she has drawn strength from meeting burns survivors such as Amber and Amy.

Katie, who wed Richard Sutton in 2015, also mentors around 15 patients a year as part of her work with the Katie Piper Foundation.

She says: "Over the years I've met so many survivors, of abusive pasts, burns, accidents. I hear stories from people who have suffered like me every day. I get emails and letters, I meet people face to face through my charity and people stop me in the street to tell me their stories.

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"I also have my podcast, in which I speak to people who have been through life-changing events, asking them how they have been able to live with it and move on.

"They've had a great effect on me, and given me a real life lesson in what you can do when you turn negative energy into positive energy."

She said meeting Denise Fergus, the mother of murdered toddler James Bulger, helped her as she struggled to come to terms with her own ordeal.

Katie says: "She taught me about acceptance and living with something that you didn't invite into your life, and how you move on from that."

Katie, who was on last year'sStrictly Come Dancing, mentors other people who are "seriously burned and have catastrophic, life-changing injuries". She says: "At the start I didn't understand how hearing the stories of others could affect me.

"Every time I speak to someone I go to a psychologist afterwards to off-load. It's so it never gets to the point where you are overburdened yourself."

Seeing the dream of the centre become reality has been therapeutic.

She says: "Accomplishing this has counteracted all the negatives in my story. It has been set up on goodwill, public donations, without any government donations, which is amazing.

"Things like that restore your faith in society. You realise there are a lot of good people out there who really care."

She said: "I hope we can raise more awareness and bring more change.

"A lot has changed already with the way people see disfigurement. My purpose and the purpose of this centre is to move things even further forward. I'm now sure we will get there."

CAPTION(S):

Credit: Justin Goff

Katie Piper with Simon Cowell and partner Lauren Silverman at the launch of the Katie Piper Foundation Rehabilitation Centre, which will work with burns victims

Credit: SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

Katie Piper and Richard Sutton attending the ITV Summer Party 2019 at Nobu Shoreditch in London

Credit: Justin Goff

Katie visits staff and patients following the opening of the 'Katie Piper Foundation Rehabilitation Centre' at the Fairfield Independent Hospital in St Helens, Merseyside

Credit: Justin Goff

Speaking at the launch, Katie Piper said: "This is better than anything else, better than making a TV show or being on a magazine cover"
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Title Annotation:3am,Celebrity News
Publication:Daily Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 11, 2019
Words:1221
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