Advertisement

The young Afghan woman treated in UK for a facial deformity that threatened her life

Of the many people I've been fortunate to meet and interview during the course of this job, few have left a mark as deep as Hadisa Hussain.

She's a young Afghan woman with an astonishing story.

Hadisa was born in a small community in the dusty streets of Kabul, with a facial deformity so severe some of the elders wanted her stoned to death. Members of her own family even suggested to her father that he abandon her in the marketplace.

From the day she was born she faced danger and prejudice. But she was also born to a father who refused to give up on her and went to the ends of the earth to get treatment for her.

We've met and filmed with them as they come to the end of an incredible journey which has seen Hadisa get the best treatment the world could offer - here in London, at the hands of British surgeons.

Her father Sardar first brought his baby to the attention of two British surgeons visiting Kabul with Medecins Sans Frontiers in 1998.

Her facial cleft was so severe (as you can see from the first pictures of her here) that she needed emergency treatment just to allow her to eat properly.

Hadisa needed emergency surgery just to be able to eat properly. Credit: On Assignment

In Kabul the surgeons were working in a wreck of a hospital - using holes in the walls and ceiling for light.

They knew they would have to bring her to London if their work were to succeed - and she became the inspiration for a new charity 'Facing the World' - to help children like her around the globe.

She became the inspiration for a charity called 'Facing the World' Credit: On Assignment

Over the years she has been back and forth to the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital - and the surgeons, giving their time for free, have gradually transformed her face - bringing her eyes together, healing her mouth and finally building her a nose.

But the driving force has been her father Sardar - who has devotedly travelled time and again to get her treatment - at one point bringing her back across the mountains from Pakistan, where the family fled from fighting when war broke out.

Her father has been a driving force in helping her. Credit: On Assignment

We've met and filmed with Hadisa and Sardar during this final visit to the UK - and they have been nothing short of an inspiration; Hadisa is now a confident, chatty young woman whose warmth is infectious - her father a constant and gentle presence in her life.

To have a camera trained on your face can be an unsettling experience - few find it comfortable. But Hadisa has never once shied away from our lens, even when recovering from gruelling surgery.

As her new face finally comes into focus, she revels in showing it to us. With breathtaking bravery, she redefines beauty.

Hadisa is a confident, chatty young woman. Credit: On Assignment

As Hadisa recovers from the last of her major surgery - we hear her reflections, hopes and plans for the future - and accompany her on the trip she has always dreamed of - to the British seaside.

Julie joined Hadisa and her father on a trip to the British seaside. Credit: On Assignment

Her delight, her optimism and the love she has for her father and all those who've helped her are overwhelming.

  • Julie Etchingham's film on Hadisa can be seen On Assignment, tonight at 10.40pm on ITV