Teenage burns survivor Shamiam Arif had a very important appointment this week with two women who are going to give her a completely new look, writes Bev Creagh.
They are Great Ormond Street Hospital clinical specialist orthotist Lisa Mitchell and Raoul Wigmakers director Liz Finan, who will fashion a hairpiece to replace the protective helmet she has worn since she was a toddler.
And Shamiam can’t wait. “I just want to look like everyone else,” she said.
The Challney High School student suffered devastating injuries as a baby when a candle fell into her cot. She lost both hands in the blaze and her skull was burned down to the lining of her brain.
In spite of her disabilities, she’s feisty, fiercely independent and is doing very well at school.
But she’s always hoped that one day she’d be able to ditch the helmet.
The multi-disciplinary team who look after her at GOSH were considering a ground-breaking operation to insert a titanium plate in her head but decided the risks outweighed the benfits.
On Monday she was measured for the headpiece which her craniofacial paediatric plastic consultant Justine O’Hara describes as a “low risk, big win” option.
Shamiam met Lisa and Liz to have a plaster cast made for the cutting edge polyproplene device which will be incorporated in a wig. Lisa was cautiously optimistic but said: “This is completely out of our normal reach. I’ll have to play around with different materials and have a think about padding and sweating – both worrying features.”
The prototype will be ready in two to three weeks. Shamiam was concerned that the hairpiece would look false at the front but Liz reassured her it would be knotted on to fine lace to make a natural hairline. It will be lined with silk so as not to irritate Shamiam’s sensitive skin.
The lively teenager is now looking forwarding to trying on different styles at Raoul’s Paddington showroom.