Story of a Scar

By Joshua McKenzie-Brown

Most people have scars. Innocently obtained in childhood, these pink purple lines are reminders of the past. Maybe you fell off your bike, or from a treehouse. Other scars are larger, more traumatic, with associated memories that have been deliberately consigned to the darkest corners of the mind.

Scars from accidents that lead to loss of life, loss of limbs, loss of independence. Reminders of life saving surgeries or fires that consumed everything.

My body is covered in surgical scars. Zigzags across both knees, both feet. Wrapping around the curve of my skull above my ear, and descending down my neck. Most likely to attract the attention of everyone on the beach is the scar on my back. Covering 25 percent of my back, raised and bold in colour. 

I was born with spina bifida. This translates to “spine split in half”. And that’s what happened. Doctors were presented with a newborn baby split down the middle from neck to bum. With bone and internal organs exposed, surgeons had no choice but to work as fast as possible. Working fast produces results, but not pretty results. The urgency of the situation is the explanation that I was given when I asked why the scar was not smaller, neater, less noticeable.

I’d take a massive scar across my back any day over dying. 

Scars tell a story and we shouldn’t be ashamed. But differences are not always celebrated. That’s human nature unfortunately. Young adults particularly look to conceal scars. For smaller ones it’s easy. Start researching the latest concealer (Thin Lizzy claims to be the best) and cover them in the same way a makeup artist conceals tattoos they don’t want actors to display.

You can also incorporate smaller scars into tattoos, making them less noticeable. Getting the actual scar tissue tattooed over is not recommended. The skin is often not up to holding ink and there may be nerve damage below the skin.

For larger, raised scars your options are limited to covering up or embracing the attention. I recommend the second option. But I didn’t reach this level of acceptance overnight. As a secondary school student I was the only one wearing a rash shirt. I was the only one not taking his shirt off on a hot summer's day.  




Later in life I decided I don’t care. People are shocked. People ask questions. That’s their problem. They soon get over it. 

As my editor says, scars are tattoos with better back stories.

I don’t tell my story to strangers. But if my story can help others reach acceptance of their trauma scars earlier rather than later then I’m ready to. 

Attitude previously covered the story of young Dukie King, a boy with 75 percent of his body covered in scars from burns. Watch as he begins primary school and challenges perceptions ...