A Woman With 96% Body Burns Now Confidently Wears Swimsuits, Embracing and Normalizing Scars
Catrin Pugh was only 19, making plans for her life. But in April 2013, her life took a dramatic turn: the bus she was returning on after vacationing in the French Alps crashed. The young woman suffered 96% burns, and doctors gave her just a 1% chance of survival.
She almost didn’t have any chance to survive.
Catrin Pugh was born and raised in North Wales, UK, and was a typical teenager with a passion for travel and adventure. In April 2013, on a bright spring day in the French Alps, the ski season had come to a close, and 19-year-old Catrin Pugh found herself boarding a coach bound for Britain. The route was renowned for its steep descent, featuring 21 challenging hairpin bends. As they navigated past the 20th bend, Catrin’s tranquility was shattered when she overheard the driver utter in a hushed tone, “I’ve got no brakes!” The statement was soon followed by a panicked shout.
Catrin in 2012.
“You could feel the coach freewheeling, soaring,” says Catrin. “There was screaming and shouting, people breaking windows, some managed to jump off.” Catrin immediately thought about her parents. “I’m really sorry, Mum and Dad.”
“I could see the drop in front of us and then the driver turned the wheel in time — which is why we’re still here,” says Catrin. However, they collided with the rocks on the opposite side of the bend. Maurice Wrightson, the driver and the sole fatality among the 52 people aboard, was later posthumously awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery in recognition of his actions.
She had 200 surgeries.
Pugh was trapped in the burning bus and suffered extensive burns to her face, arms, legs, and torso. She was airlifted to a hospital in Grenoble, France, where doctors gave her a 1% chance of survival. Only the soles of her feet and a few patches on her scalp were untouched by the fire.
Treating Catrin’s condition posed an exceptionally challenging task. Given the absence of skin to serve as a protective barrier against infection, she required immediate and multiple skin grafts. Typically, this procedure involves removing layers from another area of the body, but in Catrin’s case, her burns were too extensive. Skin grafts were extracted from her scalp, allowed to heal, and then harvested again—amounting to a total of five procedures. Additionally, skin from the legs of her brother and mother was utilized in operations that resulted in both of them being hospitalized for two weeks each.
Despite the odds, Pugh fought on. She underwent over 200 surgeries and countless hours of painful rehabilitation, and slowly but surely, she began to recover. Today, she is proud to call herself a burn survivor and is passionate about helping others who have experienced similar trauma.
“My main goal is to show people that you can have a life after such trauma and such traumatic injury and life can be fulfilling and positive and whatever you want it to be,” declared Pugh.
She didn’t lose hope and made her dreams come true.
Since her accident, Pugh has accomplished more than many could ever dream of. She has become a physiotherapist and motivational speaker, sharing her story with audiences around the world to inspire others to overcome adversity and achieve their goals.
She has also become an advocate for burn survivors, working with charities and organizations to raise awareness about the physical and emotional challenges faced by those who have suffered burns. Her efforts have helped to improve the lives of countless people, and her message of hope has touched the hearts of millions.
In recognition of her achievements, Pugh has been honored with numerous awards and accolades, including the prestigious Helen Rollason Award for Inspiration at the 2019 BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards.
Additionally, she is also the face of the beauty brand, Avon, and has even modeled at London Fashion Week and for a charity that supports people who “look different.”
Catrin Pugh’s remarkable story is a testament to the power of resilience and determination in the face of adversity. Despite facing unimaginable challenges, she refused to give up and instead found the strength to overcome her injuries and build a new life for herself.
Of course, she’s had ups and downs along the way, but she never lost her will, explaining, “I’d like to think people would look at me and see that the future looks bright, but I don’t think it’s as simple as that.”
Stories of such strong individuals inspire us to appreciate what nature has given us. Here is another brave young woman who survived an attack and suffered from acid, and now, like Catrin, has recovered and is helping those around her.