Life Video
burn survivor

By Josh Saunders

A seven year old burn survivor who calls her scarred skin ‘mermaid scales’ is learning to love herself thanks to a doll who looks just like her.

Sophie Lunstead from Groton in Massachusetts, USA, was left with second and third degree burns after accidentally spilling scolding water over her stomach, legs and hands last year.

Doctors feared the 40% burns across her body could kill her, but remarkably she pulled through and within two months she defied them again by being well enough to walk out of hospital.


Since then she’s learned to show the scarring on her legs, despite the cruel school bullies calling them ‘disgusting, gross and weird’.

Brave little Sophie overcomes their jibes by comparing her marbled skin to the scales of a mermaid, explaining that she’s ‘half-mermaid’ and a ‘survivor’ to others.

To mark her one-year burn-anniversary, mum Nichole Lunstead, 32, gave her daughter a matching mermaid doll to help her ‘see the good in her scars.’

Mum said:”Sophie calls the scarring on her body ‘scales’, she thinks she’s half-mermaid.

“When she explains about being part-mermaid the kids all understand and don’t need any further explanation.

“This year to mark her burn-aversary, a lady made her a doll with matching scars, it’s a mirror reflection of her, it has all the darker areas of skin just like her.

“She was so overwhelmed when she realised the doll had identical scars and I think it’s positive for her to see that on a doll.

“The mermaid comparison definitely helped her. Things like that help her and are her little way of seeing the good in her scars.”

Sophie was burned last year while making macaroni and cheese with her brother Matthew, now 11, while their mother was upstairs.


The pair tried to empty pasta into a colander, but while Sophie was pouring the scolding water she slipped and the water scorched her body.

Nichole said: “I was going to the bathroom and told my son to wait for me before draining the hot water that we were boiling the macaroni with.

“When I was upstairs, I suddenly heard screaming and ran downstairs to find Sophie hysterically crying by the door.

“My son yelled ‘boiling water’ and when looked over at Sophie I saw her skin coming off, I quickly ran to her took off my shirt and wrapped it around her, all I could do was scream.

“As she had poured the water into the sink it splashed up and all over her, covering her hands and body from the waist-down.”


In hospital, it was discovered she had second to fourth degree burns over her body and after skin grafts she would need to relearn to walk.

But Sophie, who was determined to be at home for her 6th birthday, surpassed doctors’ predictions by learning to walk a month early.

Nichole said: “There was a chance she could die but she battled on, she surpassed doctors’ expectations frequently, they never thought she would be walking so quickly and healing the way she did but she was determined.

“The burns were going to get worse over a period of time, they didn’t know how badly she would be affected but every single day it continued to worsen and she was very sick.

“But she remained very strong and while recovering, doctors told her if she could walk a flight of stairs she could go home, somehow she did it.

“Step by step she relearned how to walk, she was so determined to be home for her birthday that despite all of her struggles she made it happen.”


Since then, she’s returned to school and has learned to embrace the scarring on the legs and despite facing some bullying, she remains defiant and strong.

Nichole said: “She was left with scarring on her legs from the accident but still wears shorts like there’s nothing wrong and for the most part is proud of her legs, she likes to show them off.

“Sophie knows if anyone says anything to her that she should say out loud, ‘I’m a survivor and I’m strong’, we do all we can to keep her going.

“She’s proud of her own scars and doesn’t hide them away, she’s always wearing skirts and isn’t afraid to tell people what happened to her.

“I tell her all the time that she’s my hero, this girl touches everyone’s hearts when she meets them, she lights up any room she walks into and doesn’t let anything bother her.”


As time goes on Sophie will need surgery to release some of the scar tissue that will restrict movement, but until then she’s progressing perfectly.

Nichole said: “The skin is not so noticeable where her scars are, Shriners Hospital did a great job of marbling it so that the skin blends in.

“Sometimes it all comes back to me and I can’t believe all this child went through, she’s such a resilient little girl and stronger than anyone child I know.”