London Marathon: Stansted police officer Kate Riley defies devastating burns to run
A police officer from Stansted, who was scarred for life when she fell into a garden fire, is running the London Marathon to raise money for the Children’s Burns Trust.
Kate Riley, 32, who serves with the Metropolitan Police, suffered third-degree injuries and was left with barely any feeling in her left arm when her chair toppled into a chimenea at a family barbecue last August.
The chair she was sitting on fell backwards off decking into the chimenea. She was rushed to hospital, where she was given morphine for the pain and told she had burned through several layers of skin in an injury that would leave her with a lifelong scar, nerve damage and a deep-rooted fear of going near fires.
Initially she feared the accident would scupper her dream of running Sunday's London Marathon and the Great North Run in Newcastle in September. But she is running both as part of her awareness campaign.
“It was horrific," said Kate. "I was in shock for a long time afterwards. It sounds strange, but I didn’t feel the pain straight away – I think my brain has blocked it out.
"All I can remember is I got up to say goodbye to my mum and dad, and when I sat back down I didn’t realise how close the chair was to the edge of the decking and I fell. The next thing I remember is being held under a tap with cold water running on me in the kitchen.
“My friends phoned 101 and they were going to send an ambulance, but we were able to get a taxi. At the hospital they told me I had burned through several layers of skin. It was a third- degree burn, which is the most serious kind, and they had to cut some of the skin off which had burned and was flapping around the wound. It was really scary.
“I was only on the fire for about six seconds, but the injury and effects will last a long time. This has left me with two kinds of scars, physical and emotional. I’m really frightened of going near fires now.
“My friend’s little boy lit a candle the other day and I had quite a strong reaction to it, I felt scared. I have an open fire at home and I’ve not lit it since this happened."
Kate ran her first London Marathon last year after overcoming a chronic neurological condition which causes crippling back pain and left her unable to work for three months following an operation to fit a pain-relieving electronic device in her back.
She had not run further than 10k before she started her post-op training and cried tears of joy when she finally crossed the finish line in a gruelling 6 hours, 31 minutes and 12 seconds.
But her hope of beating that time in Sunday's race was almost dashed by the barbecue incident. Her confidence took a severe knock and she stopped training during the initial recovery from the burns.
"You need to use your whole body to run, not just your legs, and this really knocked my confidence, and there’s other training apart from running, like swimming, which I couldn’t do with an open wound," said Kate.
“At first the scar was really uncomfortable, so I didn’t want to wear a long-sleeved top, but it was also very unsightly and I didn’t want to run with a short-sleeved top on because people were staring at me.”
She credits Science of Skin’s Solution for Scars vegan cream with aiding her recovery.
More by this authorSinead Corr