A teenager born with facial palsy has made the brave decision to share her story as part of a national awareness raising week.
Freya Beaumont was born with unilateral congenital facial palsy – a condition which meant she couldn’t move the left side of her face.
As a young child, she needed two operations to help her smile and her appearance meant she found it hard to fit in at school.
Now a student at Bath College, Miss Beaumont is using Facial Palsy Awareness Week to highlight the difficulties of living with facial paralysis.
The 17-year-old, who is studying childcare, said: “Having facial palsy meant that I couldn’t smile and couldn’t close my left eye, in fact I had no movement at all on the left side of my face.
“When I was five I had surgery at a hospital in London, which was the first of two operations intended to give me a smile.
“While the surgery has left me with a lot of scars – the back of my legs, my chest and both my jaw lines, there is no doubt it has made a big difference.
“I wanted to take part in Facial Palsy Awareness Week because it’s something that I have lived with. I know how it can affect a young person’s self-esteem, as well as their emotions.
“I thought that if more people, especially young people, were aware of the difficulties, they would treat sufferers with more understanding.”
On March 1, Miss Beaumont set up an information stand at Bath College with the help of Students’ Union President Kez Hawkins.
She had half her face made up as part of Facial Palsy UK’s #FaceMyDay challenge and encouraged other students to join in the challenge.
The idea of the challenge is to get people thinking about how others react when they look different from those around them.
Miss Beaumont was inspired to set up the stand after sharing her story on Facial Palsy UK’s website.
Her story struck a chord with parents caring for young children with facial palsy, who wrote to say how it had encouraged them.
In the future, she hopes to use her college course to work with young children in hospital, or become a healthcare assistant.
Miss Beaumont said: “I find it easier to talk about my facial palsy to family and friends, but sometimes I feel it’s difficult to talk to strangers.
“Psychologically my facial palsy has affected me in many ways. When I was little I didn’t appreciate that my face was any different from other children’s faces.
“But when I started school it soon became more apparent. Other children would tease, point, stare and laugh at me. I felt like I didn’t fit in.
“Over the last six months or so, I’m feeling much more positive about myself. My future is bright and the challenges I’ve faced have served to make me stronger as a person.
“I think people need to know that there are support groups out there for anyone who has facial palsy and wants to share their experience.
“I have always had a passion to help children who have special needs or disabilities and I would love to do this in my career after college.
“I can achieve anything I want to and I won’t allow my condition, or other people, to hold me back.”