A teenager has told of how she has defied heartless bullies who taunted her after she had her face taken off by surgeons following a horror car crash.
Chloe Thomson was severely injured when the vehicle she was travelling in spun off the road and crashed into a tree in Argyll and Bute, Scotland.
Then 11 years old, she had to undergo emergency surgery to treat the countless broken bones in her face and body, the Daily Record reports.
This included having her face taken off so that surgeons could rebuild her shattered features.
Chloe, now 19, also had to have both her badly broken legs realigned, and was left in a wheelchair for a year following the crash.
Shockingly, she had to face heartless bullies who taunted her about the way she looks, making her school years unbearable.
The abuse led her to blacking out what happened to her as a child – denying she was even involved in an accident when people questioned her about it.
But Chloe says finding the confidence to finally face what happened to her has given her a new lease of life and allowed her to overcome the hurtful comments.
In a Facebook post, she put up a picture of her horrifying injuries just after the crash and described the hell she endured.
The post racked up thousands of ‘likes’ and hundreds of messages of support, many from strangers touched by her ordeal.
And the beautician, who lives in Gourock, Renfrewshire, now plans to return to her studies to achieve her Highers, saying she won’t let bullies stand in her way again.
She said: “I broke almost every bone in my body and face but I don’t want what happened to me to define who I am anymore.
“I don’t recognise the girl before the accident or the girl after, they seem like different people.
“I finally feel like me now.”
Chloe was being taken on a day out by a relative in the October holidays of 2008 with her sister and cousin when their car left the A815 between Strachur, where she lived at the time, and Dunoon.
It careered down an embankment and smashed into a tree, which broke and crashed down on top of the car.
Everyone else escaped uninjured, but Chloe, who was sitting in the back passenger side, took the impact of the crash, which shattered the window by her face.
Her younger sister, just nine at the time, managed to crawl from the wreckage and get help from passers-by at the roadside.
Chloe was airlifted to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley before being transferred to the Yorkhill children’s hospital in Glasgow.
Medics told her mum Jennifer, 37, to prepare for the worst as they stabilised the youngster before embarking on a string of procedures to try to repair the damage over the coming weeks.
As well as realigning and inserting metal rods into Chloe’s shattered legs, surgeons at the Southern General had to carry out a nine-hour facial reconstruction to repair the catastrophic damage to her face, including rebuilding her nose, jaw and eye sockets.
A fragment of Chloe’s nose was also embedded in her brain, leaving surgeon’s unable to tell what the permanent damage may be.
But they managed to restore Chloe’s sight by repairing her dislocated eye sockets, which had left her with double vision.
Jennifer said: “I remember showing the surgeons a picture of what she looked like before.
“I didn’t realise they were just working to do the best they could, not to make her look the same. I had to come to terms with the fact she wasn’t going to look like the old Chloe anymore.
“They had to take her whole face off, strip it back and put her face back together. It was the worst time of my life.
“She was on a ventilator and couldn’t speak for a long time. We had to communicate using letters.”
Jennifer was overjoyed her daughter had survived the crash, but Chloe, who was on strong medication and suffering terrifying hallucinations, was too afraid to look at her reflection for weeks afterwards.
She returned home for Christmas and was cared for by her mum as she learned to walk again, enduring physio and constant hospital appointments to treat her injuries and scars.
She said: “I didn’t look in a mirror for a month. I was in constant pain all the time. I was always in discomfort.
“For months I didn’t go anywhere. I didn’t keep in touch with my friends, I didn’t want to. I was constantly reliving the accident all the time.
“It was the worst experience of my life.”
Chloe was put back a year at school and returned to primary just before the end of the following summer term to prepare her for moving up to Dunoon Grammar.
When she moved away, she then attended Greenock and Clyde View academies But she says she found school life difficult wherever she went and felt like an outsider.
She said: “It was horrible. It was like having to start all over again. I was badly bullied and had people stare at me for years after.
“If anyone asked what had happened to me, I would deny it. I have done that until quite recently.
“If people weren’t making comments, it would be the way they looked at me. Often the comments were made on Facebook rather than people saying it to my face.”
But in recent months Chloe, who hopes to become a make-up artist, says she has started to accept the way she looks and recently decided to open up about her accident and the impact it had on her with a blunt Facebook post.
She said: “I wanted to address the rumours about me once and for all.
“Before I wrote the post, I couldn’t talk about what happened without crying. But since I’ve opened up about it I have been able to talk about it normally.
“It was difficult when I was younger but I feel more confident now. It’s still hard to cover the scars but I like going out, having a job and leading my life as an adult.
“I still get comments from people but I’m in a place in my life where I’m happier now.
“I didn’t have a normal school life so I’d like to go back now and study for my Highers.
“When people see my pictures now, they think I’m too confident. But now I think, ‘Why shouldn’t I be?’”