‘If you value life, you have to find a way to KEEP GO­ING’

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Gh Spotlight -

Known as The Lady In The Mask after sur­viv­ing the Padding­ton train crash that killed 31 peo­ple, Pam War­ren re­veals how she fi­nally re­built her life

When I caught the train to Lon­don from my home in Read­ing to at­tend a train­ing course in Oc­to­ber 1999, my fu­ture looked bright. I’d been mar­ried for 18 months and was run­ning my own com­pany.

At the time, work was my sole fo­cus. I was so set on my am­bi­tion of grow­ing my busi­ness that I only saw my family once or twice a year. That all changed when a train passed through a red sig­nal, caus­ing a head-on col­li­sion with the one I was trav­el­ling on. A fire­ball en­gulfed the car­riage I was in, leav­ing me so se­verely burnt that doc­tors told my family to pre­pare for the worst.

Mirac­u­lously, I pulled through. I had dozens of op­er­a­tions and had to wear a plas­tic mask to pro­tect my fa­cial skin grafts as they healed. I be­came known in the me­dia as The Lady In The Mask.

But my jour­ney back to health was the first of count­less hur­dles I would have to over­come.

In the years after the crash my be­hav­iour be­came er­ratic, and I turned to al­co­hol for com­fort. The trauma re­sulted in the loss of my busi­ness and, un­der the strain, my mar­riage col­lapsed. Those were dark days. It be­came all too easy to see ev­ery­thing through a neg­a­tive prism. In one of my low­est mo­ments, I tried to take my own life.

It was then that I was di­ag­nosed with post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der. It was a re­lief to have a la­bel for how I was feel­ing, and with the love of my family, and the right psy­cho­log­i­cal help, I be­gan to have some good days.

There came a mo­ment, a decade after the crash, when I woke up one morn­ing feel­ing some­thing akin to strength. I was a sur­vivor, I didn’t have to think of my­self as a vic­tim. I knew there would be dark days ahead, but that I had the will to get through them.

I was lucky to sur­vive the crash that day. It is this re­al­i­sa­tion that has helped me the most. If you value life, then you have to find a way to keep go­ing, what­ever it takes. It might mean go­ing down a com­pletely dif­fer­ent path to the one you knew.

Com­ing close to los­ing your life does change you pro­foundly. I am a dif­fer­ent woman to the one who boarded the train that day, with a dif­fer­ent set of val­ues. I used to place work and money at the cen­tre of my life. Now my life is about hu­man in­ter­ac­tion, show­ing love to my family and friends, and be­ing a worth­while mem­ber of so­ci­ety.

There are still dark days. The post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der causes de­pres­sive episodes for weeks at a time. But I en­dure them by re­mind­ing my­self that my sense of op­ti­mism will re­turn. I will al­ways choose pos­i­tiv­ity.

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