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The extraordinary courage of an ordinary Scotsman

 Street News Service 25 October 2019

It was in Scotland’s Shotts Prison in 1993 that Davie Stone took heroin for the first time when he felt he could not take the pain any more. “I must have had around 1000 stitches in my face after an operation and I was crying it was so bad. One of the other inmates told me that heroin would take the pain all away and so I tried it for the first time and it did.” (969 Words) - By Billy Briggs

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SNS_The extraordinary courage of an ordinary Scotsman

 Davie Stone. Photo: Angela Catlin

Stone, a 40-year-old from Glasgow is talking candidly about one of the darkest moments of his life as he recalls how having one of the world's rarest medical conditions drove him to drink, drugs and despair. Stone has an incurable disorder called Parry-Romberg Syndrome, a horrific condition that affects children and disfigures one half of the face. There is little known about PRS but the onset of the condition usually begins when kids are aged between 5 and 15 years. There are no treatments to stop its progression and reconstructive surgery is often required to repair the face where the eye and cheek have become sunken. There has been little research into PRS but some doctors think trauma can trigger it.

"In my case, my face started changing about a year after I witnessed a friend drowning when we were fishing near my home in Livingston. I remember that one side of my face suddenly became like one of those old fashioned sweeties, the penny dainty. My face became almost toffee-like and started sticking to the pillow and it just got worse and worse and worse. I was only 11-years-old," Stone says.

Doctors had no idea what was happening to Stone and the initial diagnosis was that he had Scelroderma, a condition that targets the tissue found in the skin, muscles and organs. But the medical profession was completely wrong and as Stone's face became more and more distorted his life as a teenager became a living hell.

"My mum told me that I was always a good looking wee boy, almost feminine looking, but all that changed with Parry-Rombergs and I changed dramatically as a person too. I remember St Valentine's Day at school one year when someone sent me a card. The verse inside it read: 'Here's a jar of coffee, take it to my half-chewed toffee.' After that I lost the plot and decided I wouldn't take any more."

Stone's fury at a condition that was destroying his life manifested itself in extreme violence against anyone who made fun of him and he started drinking heavily and taking drugs.

"I was on prescription drugs for the pain but I also started boozing, smoking hash and taking speed because I didn't care anymore."

"I'd always wanted to be a footballer when I was at school but that went out the window too as my life went from bad to worse. By the age of 17 I was totally lost and capable of extreme violence against anyone who taunted me. I remember walking into a pub one night and a guy started taking the mickey in front of everyone so I battered him and wouldn't stop battering him as I wanted him to know what it was like to have a face that was seriously messed up. I was totally out of control," he says.

Doctors were unable to help Stone and as his life deteriorated he ended up in and out if prison for minor offences. In November 1992 he was sentenced to six years for assault and robbery.

"Inside they called me 'The Face' and I was always fighting. One day one of the old hoods told me I should get some help or I'd end up dead so I spoke to the guvnor and he referred me to a surgeon. It was then that I was diagnosed with PRS for the first time and was sent for an operation. I was put on heavy painkillers at the hospital but when I got back to the jail there was nothing strong to take away the pain so that's why I took heroin for the first time," he says.

Heroin was Stone's saviour and after being released he began stealing from his parents to feed his heroin habit so they chucked him out of the family home. It was while hitting skid row and living on the streets that two incidents made him realise he must change his life or die.

"I saw a friend dying of a methadone overdose and then I was badly beaten up and ended up in hospital. I knew I was going to end up dead and I remember that I prayed and asked for help and then my life started to change," he says.

In 2000, Stone moved to the Gorbals in Glasgow to make a fresh start and he started attending Narcotics Anonymous. It was while dealing with his addiction that he began to accept having PRS and slowly he began to turn his life around. During the last ten years he has been completely clean of drugs and alcohol, aside from having a brief relapse in 2007.

For the past two years he has trained three nights a week at the Kelvin Amateur Boxing Club in Govanhill, Glasgow, and he took up football again. This culminated in his inclusion in the Scotland squad for the Homeless World Cup last month in Brazil. Davie was selected as the goal keeper for Scotland's squad from more than 100 people and had 'an absolute fantastic time' representing his country at Rio's famous Copacabana Beach.

"Football helped so much with my confidence and then I realised people were accepting me and starting to look out for me. It was great because no-one has ever treated me like that before and then I met my girlfriend, Cheryl. We got recently engaged and she is due to have her baby. I mean, for most of my life I never dreamed that I could have a family."

"My life has become a dream after being a nightmare for so long. I've accepted who I am and my journey has been tough but I am the happiest man in the world at the moment."

Billy Briggs and Angela Catlin are a journalistic team based in the UK - For more information please visit - www.billybriggs.co.uk and www.angelacatlin.com

Originally published by The Sunday Mail. © www.streetnewsservice.org

 

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