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THIS HORROR PIC OF LAST XMAS SAVED MY LIFE; Agony of mum poisoned in pub.

Byline: By Jenny Morrison

A HARROWING Christmas Day photo saved poisoned mum Fran Nichol from starving to death.

Fran was left unable to eat last year after pub staff accidentally put sodium hydroxide in her drink.

The powerful cleaning fluid burned her mouth, throat and gullet, leaving her in agony every time she tried to take a mouthful of food.

Her weight plunged to just 4st 8lb and her family feared she would die.

But Fran's sister convinced her that she had to start eating again by taking the photo of her skeletal body and showing it to her.

And now, more than a year on, Fran's weight is back to a healthy nine stone.

"The photo really shocked me," mum-of-two Fran admitted yesterday.

"I was so painfully thin. I was like a famine victim. It really looked as though I was dying.

"I was so weak last Christmas, I'd been so ill. Without realising it, I'd given up.

"On Christmas Day, my sister looked at me as I was getting into bed and told me she wanted to take my picture.

"I thought she was mad but I let her. And when I saw the photo, I knew I really had to start fighting back."

Fran's nightmare began on July 4 last year when she went to the John Barleycorn pub in her home city of Dundee for a meal and a drink with a pal.

Staff put the sodium hydroxide, a chemical used for cleaning beer pipes, into her glass by mistake.

Fran had to be rushed to hospital. The chemical caused such severe burns that she couldn't breathe at first.

She endured a series of operations to repair the damage but still found it almost impossible to eat. Even taking a sip of water was often unbearably painful.

But the photo persuaded Fran to fight through the pain and start eating small amounts of pureed food.

It was the beginning of a long road to recovery.

Fran's family, including her kids Claire, 21, and 20-year-old Jamie, helped her through the ordeal.

She's now back to eating and drinking normally. And she's looking forward to celebrating her 40th birthday with friends and loved ones today.

"The whole thing has been a terrible nightmare," Fran said.

"When I went into that pub, I had no idea it would be the last meal I'd have for almost a year.

"But now my life is finally getting back on track. I'm about to celebrate my 40th birthday and a Christmas I never thought I'd see."

At the time of the accident, the John Barleycorn was owned by Scottish and Newcastle and run by CMC Management.

Police closed the pub down immediately after Fran was poisoned but it reopened a few days later and no one was charged.

Fran has been told that all the staff in the pub denied putting sodium hydroxide in a drinks bottle or the bar fridge.

But she believes she was the victim of a criminal breach of health and safety law and has hired a lawyer in a bid to get to the truth.

She said: "I just want to make sure something like this is never able to happen again."

The John Barleycorn is now under new management and CMC no longer hold the lease or the licence.

Tayside Police said their investigation into the accident was still open.

CAPTION(S):

HEALTHY: Fran has recovered from her ordeal; SHOCKING: The Christmas pic of Fran. Right, the Dundee pub
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 12, 2008
Words:583
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