WHAT IS NE­CRO­TIS­ING FASCI­ITIS?

WKND - - Real Life Runway Role Model -

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.

wknd@khalee­j­times.com

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