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