Thirty-nine-year-old Kiana Smith was born with what is known as a “port-wine stain birthmark” on the left side of her face. The birthmark is a very large one, starting from the side of her face and reaching her neck, ear, and chest.
As a result, she suffered from years of relentless bullying. She was called all sorts of demeaning names by the other kids at her school, the worst of which was “the purple people eater”.
Now Smith, who lives in Cumana, Trinidad, has undergone five surgeries and has had laser treatment to help reduce the size of the birthmark.
“The surgeries of my birthmark have helped so much. I mean I don’t have this bulk on my face,” Smith said. “As I would describe it, it’s like having this huge one-inch steak, the weight of it hanging on your face. Sometimes I would feel the blood just running and pumping in my birthmark. But I don’t have that anymore. I am able to speak much better which is fantastic. “
So what exactly is a port-wine stain birthmark and how does it develop? Well, in a basic sense, the birthmark is caused by skin discoloration, but unfortunately, it goes a lot deeper than just the color of the skin. Its root cause is an abnormal growth of blood vessels and this can – as it did in Smith’s case – lead to an abnormal outer growth.
“It is something that will always be there, always growing,” she said. “The birthmark will never go away. I have accepted that now. I don’t want my whole life focused on the fact that I have a birthmark. I don’t want it to keep me back from enjoying life.”
“People always stare at me when I leave the house. I mean I’m a human being. You know children will often freak out, screaming, crying and everything and I have felt so bad because I’m the cause of their reaction. I would get called, ‘prune face’, ‘purple face’ and one of the popular ones was the ‘purple people eater.”
Check out the video below to hear Smith talk about her very moving story:
Following the surgeries, Smith has developed the confidence to be able to speak openly about her birthmark and even went onto become an ambassador for the Vascular Birthmark Foundation.
“I don’t really know what the future holds,” she admits “In terms of my birthmark, I’d like to have more laser surgery because that is critical. I’m not going to say that I’ll ever be perfectly happy with my birthmark because I don’t love it. Despite everything, I am proud of myself and what I have achieved.”