A young woman badly scalded as a baby trained as as an occupational therapist after being so inspired by her own medical care.
Leanne Miller, 37, was scalded by a teapot of boiling hot water at just 18 months when a table collapsed on her as she sat in a high chair.
As a toddler she was left severe burns to nine per cent of her body – equivalent to one limb on a child at that age.
She spent a month in hospital having skin grafts taken from her thighs and put on her left arm, and subsequently recovering from that surgery.
But it was her experience at the hands of caring medical staff that later inspired her to pursue a career as an occupational therapist.
She has spent the past 15 years, helping patients recover from burns, strokes, and mental health issues
It was Leanne’s occupational therapist (OT), Heather Mann – whom Leanne saw for almost five years after her accident – who had the most profound impact on her life and career.
Leanne, originally from Blackpool, Lancs., but who now works at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said: “I really don’t remember any of the incident itself, because I was so young.
“What I do remember is going for appointments with Heather, my OT.
“It never felt like a chore. I loved going to see Heather.
“I remember even when I had to go to hospital for outpatient appointments to see a consultant, I would always ask my mum if I could pop in and see Heather while we were there.
“She had such a huge impact on my childhood – and then on my career.”
Leanne said her recovery with Heather involved teaching her to use her left arm again – after keeping it taut for the better part of two years while she wore pressure garments to flatten her burn scars.
She said: “I was really into raisins and sultanas at the time, so Heather used to use finger food like that and encourage me to put it in my left hand and bend my arm towards my mouth.
“I only really have quite positive memories of the whole experience, and especially going to the OT.”
Leanne added that, thanks to Heather’s help when she was a child, her burn scars – which will remain on her left arm forever – never limited her in what she could do.
She said: “I can’t remember anything I couldn’t do physically because of my scar. I was quite a sporty teenager.
“I just remember being self-conscious about it, and hating to wear short-sleeved school shirts in the summer.”
But Leanne decided to turn her experience into something positive – and qualified as an OT herself.
And even though she had stopped seeing Heather before she was a teenager, it was not the last time Leanne was to encounter her old therapist.
She said: “Heather knew I was going to do a degree in occupational therapy.
“After I qualified at 21, I got a job on a burns unit in Manchester, and one day a visiting therapist came in to have a look at how we ran the units.
“She looked familiar to me, but I couldn’t quite place her – until she came over to me and said, ‘Leanne’, and I realised it was Heather. I hadn’t seen her in a good ten years.”
Leanne then kept in touch with her old therapist, and even said a few words at her retirement party a few years ago.
Sadly, Heather passed away last year after a battle with cancer.
But Leanne said she is grateful to her childhood therapist for inspiring her to consider the career that she loves today.
She said: “I remember my mum and I going to a careers fair when I was a teenager, and mum pointing out occupational therapy.
“If it hadn’t been for my scars and for Heather, I probably wouldn’t have considered that.
“The scars will always be there for the rest of my life, but I’ve kind of learned to love them now.
“They make me who I am and have got me to where I am today – and they also help me have a rapport with some of my patients, as they can see I get what they’re going through.
“What has come out of a really horrible situation when I was a baby is something really quite positive.
“I feel really privileged to have found a career that I love, that is so diverse, interesting and challenging, and has so much scope for progression.”