Seven weeks after a vicious sulfuric acid attack, Katie Piper readied for her release from the hospital. The 26-year-old former model and aspiring television presenter was burned beyond recognition when a stranger threw acid in her face on a London street in March 2008.
"The pain was so bad I thought this guy's thrown a match at me... I thought I must be a big orange fireball because it's so painful," she recalled. "I remember bits of my face were coming off and bits were coming away, and my clothes were all evaporating and I was panicking. I was banging on the windows of the shops and people were scared."
Security cameras captured the incident and police learned that Piper's boyfriend, Danny Lynch -- a 33-year-old martial arts enthusiast Piper had started dating just two weeks earlier, had hired a henchman to throw the acid at the stunning model.
"This is when my life changed completely, forever…" she said, "This is when I lost my beautiful face."
The acid melted all of the skin on her face, neck and hands and when she arrived at the hospital, she was missing an ear and parts of her nose, and was blind in one eye. Piper's doctors began a series of reconstructive surgeries, including a revolutionary skin graft to reconstruct her face.
But even after a marathon of reconstructive surgeries, psychological hurdles remained. Piper, whose looks were the key to her aspiring career as a model, hadn't seen a mirror since the day she was assaulted.
"I remember I had no eyelids and it was just the actual eyeballs round -- all exposed, and...[I] had no nose," Piper said. "It was just...it was so difficult, so alien."
"She looked at [her face] and burst into tears," said her father, David Piper. "And she looked at me and said, 'It's not me. It's not the face I was born with.'"
In shock, Piper asked for a moment alone before the ride to her family's home in Andover, England.
"I was alone in the room. And I was praying and I was talking to God and I knew God had a plan for me, I knew he was taking me on a journey," she said. "And I decided how hard it was going to get, I was going to keep on that journey.
Piper's road to recovery was long and filled with many more trips to the hospital. At home, she was forced to wear a plastic mask 23 hours a day to help her wounds heal.
The attack had stolen the carefree woman's identity and crushed her spirit. "I've never been like this where there's no point in waking up," she said. "I thought I was invincible, lived for the moment and loved life."
Piper's mother, Diane, quit her job to focus on her daughter's care.
"I thought, 'Well, I'll have to give up work. Kate won't want to go anywhere. She won't want to be seen by anybody. She'll become a recluse. I will give up my life; I will stay at home with her,' And that was the future. An empty future," Diane Piper said.
But as Piper settled in at home, the fear did not wear off. She was terrified of anyone approaching the house. Even the doorbell was paralyzing.
"It was like having a child again, instead of having a woman," her father said. "If somebody dropped a tray, she would nearly come off the bed. ...She was so frightened of men, generally, and just anything that was scary. And she had terrible days of, you know, hallucinations."