Beds, Herts & Bucks

Badly burnt girl gets wig in latest stage of recovery

Shamiam Arif
Image caption Shamiam Arif was badly burned in a fire at her home in Kashmir, Pakistan

A girl who nearly died in a fire as an infant has spent more than a decade having treatment to improve her condition. BBC News has followed the latest stage of her recovery, as experts come together to make her a special wig.

When she was a few months old, Shamiam Arif was left horrifically burned after a candle fell into her cot.

Her family lived in a remote part of Pakistan and struggled to find a medical unit to treat the little girl.

By the time they got help, infection had started to spread through her skin, bones and brain.

When a British charity worker heard about what had happened to Shamiam, he organised for charity Muslim Hands to pay for her to come to Britain for treatment - and that is where her road to recovery began.

Read more on this and other news from across Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire.

Spanning more than a decade and countless procedures, surgeons across the country have worked to close up her wounds, stabilise her skull and provide basic hand and finger functions.

For the past decade, she has been wearing a helmet to protect her skull, which was badly damaged in the fire.

Image caption Shamiam now lives in Luton, where members of her family are based

Now, aged 13, Shamiam is living in Luton with her extended family, where she has been following her dream - to look like her friends.

The answer could take the form of a special wig, and the help of experts from Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Lisa Mitchell works at the hospital as an orthotist, providing care for people who need a device to support or control part of the body.

"The main problem is that she's got quite a large area of bone missing from the front of her head, which is basically just brain and skin, so this area needs to be protected," she said.

Image caption Specialists made a head plate to sit on top of Shamiam's skull and keep her new wig secure

"So I was asked to come up with something that was fairly slimline to protect that area and then allow a wig to be put over the top of it."

The plate sits on top of Shamiam's skull and is something she will always have to wear, Ms Mitchell said.

"Unfortunately, due to the amount of damage that she had from the fire, the bone was irreversibly damaged, so that is never going to grow back.

"The procedures to put in a titanium plate or something which would be a normal procedure, for her is just too dangerous."

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Media captionBadly burnt girl given special wig

The next part of the process is giving Shamiam a head of hair, and to do that, a company called Raoul Wigmakers has been working with the charity Little Princess Trust.

The company's owner, Liz Finan, said they had taken a traditional wig base and adapted it with Velcro to stick around the plate made by the hospital team.

Work has been done to make the wig "as realistic as possible", and it can eventually be cut and styled to suit Shamiam.

"Effectively, when she has the wig on her head, you can't see, but it's really secure," Ms Finan said.

Image caption Shamiam's mother Tahira said the wig had made her daughter "so happy"

Shamiam's family say they have already noticed the difference it has made to her outlook and her happiness.

"It makes me feel like a normal girl. I don't want to stay with it [the helmet] for ever," Shamiam said.

Her treatment will continue for years to come - the next stage will be procedures to improve her hands and facial features.

Shamiam's mother, Tahira, said when her daughter was wearing the wig she was the happiest she had ever seen her.

"She is pretty and normal, and she maybe has her confidence back. She is so happy today," she said.

Inside Out will be broadcast on BBC One in the east of England at 19:30 GMT on Wednesday and available on iPlayer afterwards.

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