WHAT IS NECROTISING FASCIITIS?
STANDING HER GROUND: right) Stacy Paris is on a mission to make the fashion and beauty industry use more differentlyabled models, and to prove to young girls that anything is possible left knee where my leg had been. I thought I might cry, but I didn’t flinch. I wanted to get better, and this was the sacrifice I had to make.
“When can I try to walk?” I asked. I was measured for my false leg, and taken for physio. I had to build up my strength in 10-minute bursts. I used a pylon — a plastic support attached to my stump — to learn to walk, holding on to bars.
As soon as my prosthetic pink leg arrived a few weeks later, I was walking around and even up the stairs at mum’s. I was proud when doctors told me I was the fastest amputee they’d ever seen walk after surgery.
I went back to work. The only thing that bothered me was not being able to wear heels, short skirts and dresses. I didn’t want anyone to see my false leg. So I wore trainers and jeans.
I applied to Glasgow University. Spending so much time in a hospital had got me interested in biochemistry. I was accepted to start in the autumn 2014. One day, as I took off my trainers, my right foot hurt. I checked and saw a blister on the sole. “Not again,” I thought, panicking.
At the hospital, my consultant confirmed the flesh-eating bug was in my right foot. Just like last time, I needed surgery to remove infected tissue. I lost toe after toe, then my heel bone snapped off. My bones were disintegrating.
Five weeks later, in August 2014, I looked at my consultant and I knew what he was going to say. “When?” I asked.
“This week,” he said, and booked me in for surgery to amputate my right leg.
I didn’t grieve. “I’ve done this once,” I told mum. “I can do it again.”
My right leg was amputated just below the knee, the same as the left had been. I started physio immediately and learnt to walk on two false legs even quicker than I had on one. I bashed into walls, and fell over a few times but I kept going.
Then as I was getting measured for my new leg, I had a thought. I was 5ft 6 inches but had always wanted to be taller. “Can you make my legs longer?” I asked.
Being a double amputee had to have some perks. My new legs arrived and I put them on. And smiled. I was now 5ft 9 and 1/2 inches.
I started university and didn’t tell anyone about my legs. No one could tell. I walked normally, and danced badly at parties, but always covered up.
Then, one day, I saw an advert from a photographer looking for models for an art project. “I wonder if I could do that,” I thought, sending him some photos and explaining what had happened to me. He booked me immediately.
I was nervous but the photographer, Steven Cruikshanks, soon put me at ease. I struck various poses and then decided to pose without my false legs as well.
“You were great,” Steven said. He sent me copies of the photographs and I was impressed. I looked confident and attractive. Happy, I posted one of the pictures on social media. I expected a few likes, but it was being shared and seen in Italy, Canada, the US, Indonesia and Spain. “It’s gone viral!” I told my mum. It gave me a new-found confidence. That’s when I heard about an agency looking for models with a difference. I applied. They booked me to do a fashion show in Belfast.
Standing backstage, I was nervous. Taking a deep breath, I told myself how far I’d come. “You’re a survivor,” I said to myself. “Walk tall.” So I pasted on a smile, and went out to strut the runway. I didn’t wobble once. I was signed for more shows and have been doing regular modelling work ever since as well as studying. I’m also campaigning for Models of Diversity — a non-profit organisation calling on the fashion, beauty and marketing industry to use disabled models too.
I want to be a role model for young girls so they know anything is possible. One woman told me that her little girl had both her feet amputated and her face lit up when she saw my pictures. That makes me so happy.
I’m proud of who I am and don’t hide my false legs anymore. I wear mini-skirts and sunbathe in my bikini with my legs beside me. I’ve even had a set of bionic legs made, and another pair with adjustable feet so I can wear high heels again.
I’ve started seeing someone. It’s early days, but he’s proud of me, and I’m proud of myself. I don’t have any legs but I have a lot of determination and ambition. Nothing’s going to stop me from achieving my dreams.