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 man threw acid in her face on a London street in March 2008.
"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 her identity and crushed her spirit. "I've never been like this where there's no point in waking up," she said.
Piper's mother, Diane Piper, 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," she said.
But even after a marathon of reconstructive surgeries and Piper settled in at home, the fear did not wear off. She was terrified of anyone approaching the house. Even the doorbell was immobilizing.
"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."
Beyond a forest of medical concerns, Piper also obsessively worried about the legal proceedings against David Lynch, her 33-year-old short-lived boyfriend, who authorities said had paid Stefan Sylvestre to throw the acid at Piper and had a history of violence.
"In the first few months at home, every night I'd have nightmares about my attackers," she said. "I would see them over me, I'd wake up screaming."
By day, a glance at her reflection in the mirror sparked a firestorm of anger.
"My appearance is a constant reminder of what he did to me. And almost like I belong to him, because it's not really my face -- it's the one he created through the attack," Piper said. "I think that's like the only thing I feel I belong to, is him. I always have, like, his marks all over my face, all over my body. I'll never be like the person I was born to be like -- the person I'm supposed to be."