Carol Guscott, the woman whose face was disfigured when attackers poured battery acid on her, today will undergo the first of several plastic surgeries that she hopes will help restore her appearance.
Dr. Brian M. Kinney, a Santa Monica plastic surgeon, is volunteering his services, and Century City Hospital is waiving all costs for the surgeries.
"I feel like my prayers are being answered," said Guscott, who is living in a Fullerton apartment rented for her by local service clubs. "From day one, three years and three months ago, I have been crying out for help. The first day I cried, 'God, please don't let me die.' "
Guscott, 37, was closing her hardware shop in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, in 1994 when two men robbed her at gunpoint, bound her hands and feet and poured battery acid on her face and chest.
She now wraps towels around her face to shield her deformed features from the public and has avoided looking in mirrors to keep from getting depressed.
"All my dreams, my independence, my dignity and pride have been shattered, and I'll go through anything and do anything to get beyond this," said Guscott, who already has undergone a number of eye and reconstructive operations.
Kinney said he was so moved by Guscott's story that he volunteered to do a series of surgeries within the next year.
Kinney, who has performed similar surgeries on Bosnian victims of land mines and bomb blasts, said he will take skin grafts from Guscott's abdomen for her new face.
"This is a seriously bad injury, but I'm confident that we can improve her face," he said.
Guscott is optimistic.
"I have not taken this ordeal as a death sentence," she said. "I've had a lot of suffering and hardship, but I hold on to hope. Now, very soon, I'm going to radiate just like a caterpillar turning into a beautiful butterfly."