The woman in the gauze mask

Image caption, Davinia thought those helping her were trying to steal her shoes

The facial burns Davinia Douglass suffered in the 7 July bombings healed fast. But her emotional scars ran deeper.

The defining image of the 2005 rush-hour attacks is of a young woman in a burns mask, barefoot and bloodied.

That woman is barrister Davinia Douglass, then Davinia Turrell, who was on her way to work when fellow passenger Mohammad Sidique Khan blew himself up as their train pulled out of Edgware Rd station.

She recalls little of her encounter with her guardian angel, Paul Dadge, who led her to safety when a makeshift first-aid station was evacuated because of a suspect package.

"I accused him of stealing my shoes. I had quite high heels on and he said I had to take them off. I said I'm not taking them off.

"In the end, I took them off and as he bent down to pick them up, I said 'give me back my shoes!' It's amazing the sort of things you think about," Ms Douglass told BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour in her first broadcast interview.

Having shunned the limelight for five years, she has gone public with her story to help raise money for a psychological screening programme at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London's only specialist burns unit. She thinks this would have helped her recovery.

She recalls how the explosion swept down the carriage towards her. "A massive ball of fire came from my left-hand side to my right hand side. It felt like a massive gush of air that lifted me off my seat and then back down again.

"It was very quiet. Very still. Very dirty and dusky because of the bomb. No-one was running around screaming."

What with the smoke, dust and a lost contact lens, she couldn't see clearly and had little idea that she was injured.

"I wasn't in a lot of pain. It felt like my skin was stinging, it felt like I had water on my face. My hair didn't feel very nice, it was all burnt and singed, and that was it."

Once above ground, she was given the much-photographed gauze mask. "I'd been tagged and put into the priority list after many arguments with paramedics saying I needed to go to work. This lady put the gauze on my face to stop it burning more. Before they'd been putting water on my face. But the eye holes weren't cut out properly and you couldn't really see."

But it wasn't until the next day that she saw her face. With no mirrors or reflective surfaces in the burns unit, a doctor showed her photos of her injuries so she could gauge the healing process.

"I can't remember what I felt. I just remember that I looked puffy and as if I'd been through the wars."

Image caption, Davinia's burns have completely healed

Today, there is no trace of any scars. Her burns weren't deep, and her surgeons likened the damage to a chemical peel, an anti-ageing procedure popular with the botox set.

"The surgeon said I should look 10 years younger on my left side. [Instead of a skin graft] they used a pig membrane. They stitched pig skin onto the left side of my face to help the skin re-grow and become normal again."

With the early days taken up with physical repairs, dealing with her emotional wounds came later.

"My lowest point came several months afterwards. I try and keep upbeat, but I did have bad days when I didn't want to get up. So I wouldn't get up. I'd let myself have a day off and do nothing - just watch TV and eat ice cream.

"I didn't have too many of those days. I'm quite a stubborn person and would think 'how can I be feeling so bad when I've been so lucky'. I'm lucky because I survived," she says, her voice breaking.

After several months, she was assessed and referred to a clinical psychologist.

"She helped me get back on the Tube. And for about six months I had a constant action replay of the event on my left-hand side. She taught me how to recall it if I wanted to recall it, but also get rid of it if I didn't want to see it any more."

Davinia also talked to her psychologist about survivor guilt. "She said it was normal - you do feel guilty, and you do feel that you have to make the best of what's happened."

And that is why she is helping publicise the hospital's fundraising appeal.

"If they can start the process early, it can help with the whole of your recovery, rather than just the physical side. What they can do with skin and burns is amazing.

"But it's the psychological side afterwards, of what happened to you or how you feel about your burns, that really does help you get back to being your normal self again. Or near enough."

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