When Michael was eight months old he became trapped next to a hot water pipe and was burned down the side of his face. He went through many operations and when he was eight years old he was fitted with a prosthetic ear.
At school everything was fine until he was about nine years old when other children started calling him names.
“They’d call me two-face and I would get so angry that I would lash out and get really upset. When I went to secondary school I had an older sister who looked out for me. On my first day someone called me a name and she confronted them and it never happened again.”
When Michael went out with his family he would notice the stares from other people and would become very self-conscious.
“One time I was on a train with my mum and sister and I noticed that people were staring at me so I put my jacket over my head because I couldn’t stand it and I just wanted to disappear.”
Michael’s family were very protective until he got older and they realised he could handle people’s reactions. In his teens Michael discovered a talent for athletics, his confidence improved and he became physically strong which he thinks put people off bullying him.
When he was 17, Michael started internet dating and had a mixed experience.
“My first proper girlfriend hadn’t really noticed my scars in my photo but when we met she was absolutely OK about it and that surprised me and gave me confidence. However, another time I went to meet someone and they didn’t turn up. Afterwards they told me that they had seen me but didn’t go through with the date because of how I looked and that really knocked my confidence.”
Despite some really negative comments online Michael carried on dating and met Jo, his wife, when he was 23. “On about our fifth date, Jo asked me about my burns and I was able to talk about it really openly. It was just very natural.”
Michael and Jo now have two young children. He says his son, who is 3 years old, has started to notice his scars.
“My son recently felt my burns and said ‘What’s that daddy?’ so I told him about it. I think it’s good to be open with children and talk to them about what happened.”
Michael says he still gets stares and comments and some days are better than others.
“I usually meet stares with a smile unless I’m not in the mood then I’ll just ignore them. I’ve had someone ask if I’m in a gang. I’ve also had someone say, ‘Wow what’s that on your face?’. I’d love for natural equality. The kind you get with children who ask questions and are inquisitive. There is no judgement, just curiosity and a desire to understand.”