Scarred and part-blinded - but now a proud honours graduate
A STUDENT who almost gave up her studies after being scarred and partially blinded in a bottle attack has graduated from Edinburgh Napier University.
Hannah Wood, 22, had to repeat her first year after suffering horrific injuries in a night club incident just weeks into her university career.
However, the support of her family and academic staff persuaded her not to abandon her course, despite having to go through a series of operations and a distressing court case.
Hannah, who still faces the prospect of plastic surgery around her left eye, saw her determination rewarded when she picked up her BDes honours degree in Product Design in a ceremony at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall.
She said: “One day I remember feeling like my life was over and there was no point going back to university. But my mum told me I could live my life letting the person who did this make me a victim or I could accept it, carry on and let it make me stronger. So that’s what I did.
“I also had tutors at Edinburgh Napier who were 100 per cent supportive of me and only wanted to see me succeed.”
Hannah’s life changed forever when she was struck in the face by a flying beer bottle at the Grand Central club in her home town of Livingston in October 2011. The bottle, thrown into a crowd, shattered on impact, leaving her with scars to her forehead and chest and limited vision in her left eye.
Her subsequent course work was badly disrupted by hospital visits, and she went through four separate operations and laser surgery. The incident also left her with considerable social anxiety issues, which were not helped by having to re-sit first year and explain her scars to a new group of people.
In February 2014 a man stood trial over the night club incident but he was cleared after the jury was shown CCTV footage.
Hannah said: “The build-up and the court case were extremely stressful as I was constantly reliving the night of the event, and I also had to deal with the outcome of the case. Having no justice for what I’d been through felt like another slap in the face.”
The student later learned about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder through her Degree Show project ‘Thrive’, which featured a gardening therapy workstation to help ex-service personnel, and realised she had similar symptoms.
Hannah said: “I have dreams and flashbacks to the incident, and talking about it can leave me shaking and short of breath.
“I have also had to relearn to do a lot of things as it’s quite overwhelming to suddenly have no peripheral vision or depth perception on one side. I would misjudge steps or reach out and miss when someone passed me something.
“The sight I have left is comparable with opening your eyes under water. I can see shape and colour but no detail. I still need eye drops throughout the day and before I sleep as my scar has tightened on my eyelid and left a gap when my eye is closed. I will need plastic surgery at some point to break up this scar and allow my eye to fully close.”
She added: “Although the scars have faded a lot and I’ve learned to cover them with make-up, I do still have scarring to my forehead, eyelid and chest.
“I think it has just been determination and the sheer enjoyment I got from my class which stopped me dropping out. I’ve always loved design and the Edinburgh Napier course is a great mixture of all aspects of design.”
Now Hannah is out to make her mark on the industry. But she also wants to make time to tell older school pupils her story in a bid to encourage people to think about the consequences of their actions, and to push for curbs on access to glass for pub and club customers.
Richard Firth, Edinburgh Napier’s programme leader for BDes(Hons) Product Design, said he was “full of admiration” for Hannah.
He said: “During her time at the University, she has at no point made an issue of her injuries, even when it’s been clear that some situations have been challenging for her.
“It is a credit to her personality and strength of character that she has successfully graduated, through hard work and focus, and we wish her well in her future career.”