Ten years on from the accident that left her disfigured, Kirsty Smart, 28, Gwent, won’t let her injuries define her...
You need to look,’ my sister Marie, then 23, said. ‘The sooner you look in the mirror…’
I knew what she meant. But it was the last thing I wanted to do.
I’d been in a coma for 15 days, my face almost destroyed after being dragged under a car.
Who’d want to see that face? Not me.
But, as I hobbled to the bathroom with Marie’s help, I finally found the courage to look at my reflection.
Unable to scream through my torn voice box, hoarse gasps of horror slipped out.
My legs buckled as I tried to back away.
Just 18, and disfigured for life.
‘We’ll get through this, Kirsty,’ Marie promised.
The accident, on 23 February 2007, was a blur.
A bit tipsy, I’d been walking home from a party, around 11pm, when it happened…
I can’t remember the car hitting me, or being dragged. But even if my mind could forget, my eyes could see it every single day.
The girl looking at me in the mirror had wanted to travel.
She was through to the third round of interviews as a flight attendant, dreaming of stopovers in far-flung locations.
Now, she was a mess… I was a mess.
Every bone in my face was broken.
My dreams ripped apart like my skin.
I’d been so lucky to survive, but was in a terrible state.
All but two of my teeth were smashed out, I’d holes in the roof of mouth. Plus, I’d suffered severe brain swelling, my eye sockets were crushed, my jaw hung off my face, and I’d bitten off half my tongue.
Marie and my mum Fiona, then 42, didn’t leave my bedside.
Along with my younger sister, Kayleigh, just 11, and the rest of my family and friends, they were my rocks.
Back home, I spent months holed up in my room.
Hitting rock bottom, I considered suicide.
Then I thought of Mum, Marie and Kayleigh.
Mum had given up work to care for me. She blended all my meals, as I had a feeding tube.
How could I let them down?
Somehow, I had to keep going, adjust to my new face, new life.
With my family’s support I got through countless operations to rebuild my features. Had counselling to help me cope with the trauma.
Then one day, seven months on, I got dressed and put on my make-up.
‘I’m off to work!’ I announced to Mum.
I was going back to my old call-centre job one day a week.
I was scared to walk through the door, but colleagues couldn’t have been nicer.
Only, with my damaged voice, it was too stressful.
Still, the old determined, ballsy me was returning.
Heading out with friends, no-one knew what to say.
‘I don’t want to complain about my problems!’ one said.
‘Just talk to me! Be normal!’ I’d reply, frustrated.
Slowly, I found ways to make myself ‘less obvious’, so people wouldn’t stare.
It was the summer Victoria Beckham made huge sunglasses fashionable. ‘They’ll do for me!’ I decided.
And I grew a huge fringe to shield my scarred face.
Hanging out with friends, in 2011 I met a guy. He saw past my mangled looks, and we began dating.
Then, though I was on the Pill, I fell pregnant.
Sadly, my boyfriend and I split, but having something to look forward to gave me hope.
Especially when police were unable to bring a criminal case regarding my accident.
However, I was awarded a five-figure sum in compensation.
Now, I could focus on being a mum. And I wanted to be an inspiration to my child.
Only, as my bump grew, so did my nerves.
‘Will she… love me?’ I fretted when my baby girl Halle was born on 19 November 2011, a healthy 7lb 12oz.
‘What if she can’t bear to look at me?’ I sobbed to Mum.
But, growing up, Halle never questioned it. She understood that I’d been in an accident and, when she turned 4, I showed her photos of me before and after the crash.
She loves me unconditionally, like kids do. Every day, she makes me smile, look forward to the future.
I’ve battled depression, though. That’s why I’m speaking out. I want to help others.
So I’m doing a cognitive behavioural therapy course, as it made an amazing difference to my confidence.
I no longer dream of travelling the world, I’m happier closer to home now.
Ten years ago, I was almost killed, and my life was shattered just as much as my face.
After 13 reconstruction surgeries, I’m now trying different skin treatments with a friend, Roisin, who runs a local salon, Allure Aesthetics.
I was just a teenager when my accident happened. Now, I’m a woman, and my dreams are simpler.
Inspiring people, making essential oils, being a mum.
The face in the mirror will always be different to the one I was born with. But now when I look, I see strength, I see life.
And that’s what’s most important to me.