A TEENAGER who suffered severe burns as a toddler spoke movingly about the impact scars have had on her life at the launch of a major medical research campaign.

India Gale suffered 40 per cent burns to her body after her dress caught fire when she was three-years-old, leaving her with scars to her thighs, stomach, arms, neck and face.

The 16-year-old from Brighton has had to undergo numerous operations over the years and faces more in the future.

India was at the launch of a new charity-led drive aimed at developing research which will find the methods needed to achieve scar-free healing within 30 years.

The teenager, who has just finished her GCSEs at Brighton College and is planning to start her A Levels in September, said this type of treatment would help people not have to deal with the psychological and physical effects of scarring.

She said: “Research like this is important because I think scars bring a huge impact on people's lives.

"It isn't just physical but it disrupts schooling and work and there's a huge emotional impact as well.

"My accident happened 13 years ago and something that happened so long ago is still so present in my life.

"It would have been amazing to have scar free healing and keep things of the past in the past.

"I was fortunate enough to have never been bullied but I know other people who have been through some very difficult experiences.

"I am always going to have to get past the barrier that people only see my scars. You have to prove you're like anybody else. It makes things a little bit harder when you're meeting new people.

"Scar-free healing is something I would really love to see. I did not think scar free was even a possibility.

"The idea that no one will have to deal with this kind of thing again is amazing."

The UK-led initiative by the Scar Free Foundation will develop a programme which will help a number of conditions including military injuries, burns, surgery and scar-related diseases of major organs.

Consultant plastic surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital, London, Simon Withey, said: “It is a programme of research working towards a medical revolution which is as important as the discovery of antibiotics or the development of modern anaesthetics."

The foundation aims to raise £24m within the next five years to start an international project.

India was joined by her mother Katie at the ceremony in London yesterday.

Mrs Gale, 52, said: “I’m extremely proud of her. She has spoken at 11 Downing Street previously. She is a very good advocate for public awareness in the effects scarring can have.”


HERE is India’s speech at the Scar Free Foundation project in full:

HELLO. I am India Gale. A brief history about me. When I was three I was caught in a house fire which left me with 40 per cent burns on my body and, quite obviously, scarring.

When defining how scarring has affected my life, I really really must stress it is not just a physical scar it is really an emotional scar. The moment you have scarring your life just suddenly changes completely.

I have always grown up with scars so I am used to it. It’s small things,; people always asking questions whenever they meet you, or treating you differently by thinking you’re slightly more sensitive, or they’re more cautious to approach you because they feel like you’re not an approachable person, or people are staring at you in the street.

You have to kind of get used to it. I think it is quite sad in a way that that is what we have to do, but that’s life.

I feel quite lucky that I have never been a subject of bullies, but I do know people who have been because of their scars.

A friend of mine said she used to go to school and for the first two months kids just would not speak to her because they were too scared of her scar.

And it really does affect your confidence in yourself, especially as a teenager. Now social media promotes ridiculous standards anyway, but having scars makes it even more hard. We have to build confidence in ourselves to deal with that.

On top of that there is also the physical effects of it. You have to go into hospital, I have to go for check-ups, but every two years I have to go in for operations.

Scars do not grow like normal skin so I need those operations. You miss school time and have to catch up and I am sure for people who go to work it is just the same, because you have to miss work too.

It creates a lot of stress, a lot of extra weight on your shoulders, and I think the thing for me is the idea of a scar-free world is so incredible.

Something that happened 13 years ago in a split second of my life is still affecting me now. I think it would be amazing to see a the world where this kind of thing, these minor things that happen in our lives, does not have to take up our whole lives or control or change the way we live.

For me the idea of a scar-free world, – the idea that what happened to you does not define you at all, you can leave in the past, it doesn’t matter any more, – is amazing.

We can always work at changing attitudes but I think it would be really brilliant if you had a place where we would not have to do that at all.

In conclusion, I personally would not want to get rid of my scars now, as I feel like they have changed me as a person, but if I had to think about the future, – my children, – I would do anything to make sure they would never have to go through any of the stuff that I have.

I did not even think scar-free healing was an option or even possible, but the idea that this kind of amazing thing could help people is just incredible.

A scar-free world, to be honest with you, would be a much better place for everyone.