A woman who survived third degree burns to 85 per cent of her body has told how she learned to love herself after the potentially fatal accident as she celebrated the imminent arrival of her second child with a photo shoot.
Andrea Grant, 24, was told she would not be able to carry a pregnancy to term after she was badly scarred in a gas explosion when she was just nine years old.
But the motivational speaker from Jacksonville, Florida, has defied doctors’ expectations after reaching the 37th week of her second pregnancy – which she celebrated by sharing a series of moving photographs on Instagram.
After the explosion, due to a gas leak, she had to endure months of pain and surgery and relearn how to complete basic tasks such as walking, eating and writing.
The pictures, by Terrence Armand, show her wearing a crown and proudly holding her bump in a floor-length lace pink skirt and matching halterneck cropped top.
Quoting the lyrics of India Arie’s song Video, Andrea wrote alongside a photograph of herself: ‘I learned to love myself unconditionally, because I am a queen’.
The picture has been liked by more than 20,000 users and inspired hundreds of people to send messages of support.
Andrea, whose first child is called Jada, said for her second pregnancy she was convinced she would not have issues expanding but knew that she would experience ‘pulling and stretching’.
She has been applying olive oil and sometimes coconut oil combined with shea butter to her scars during pregnancy.
‘I wanted to share this pregnancy with [other] survivors, so I said at the end I’ll do a photo shoot, not thinking the photos would go viral,’ she told BuzzFeed News.
She said the supportive comments she has received have made her ‘feel stronger’.
During the shoot, she said she listened to Video which she said has been a source of inspiration and encouragement for ‘some years’.
She added: ‘She talks about not being an average girl, and she’s not built like a supermodel, but she learned to love herself unconditionally because she’s a queen.’
Andrea, whose brother Kendell was also scarred during the 2001 explosion, has set up her own foundation, Beyond Scars.
It aims to help burn victims and their families by helping them build on areas such as their self confidence.
Writing on her website, she said one of her favorite encouraging phrases that she teaches people about self-love is: ‘Look in the mirror, find that one thing you love about yourself and build confidence around it.’
She has previously told how the explosion changed her life ‘forever’ and that she still remembers ‘everyday of it like it was yesterday’.
She wrote on Instagram: ‘The smells the taste of smoke that lasted on our breath for weeks after waking up…
‘My mother raised me to believe I was/am beautiful…Even when on days I know I was hard to look at.’