woman lost part of face flesh eating disease
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
March 6, 2024 ·  4 min read

Woman who lost parts of face to flesh-eating bug left feeling like ‘freak show’

A woman felt like a “freak show” after flesh-eating bacteria disfigured her face. Janine Violet Light was almost four years old when she was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, a life-threatening illness. [1] At the same time, she was battling leukemia.  

Because of the chemotherapy, she couldn’t receive the surgery to fight the necrotizing fasciitis. She was placed in ICU. Half of her face was already rotted and disfigured. Even after the surgery, she faced relentless bullying throughout her life. 

At 35, Janina had managed to achieve a form of normal in her life. She got married but her life is far from a dream. She wears headphones whenever she leaves the house to drown out the teasing she faces in public. One of her eyes can’t completely close. Her abilities to smile, speak, eat, and drink are limited. The specialists she had visited in the UK told her that nothing could be done to improve her face. Until one surgeon came along.

A Life-Changing Surgery 

Before Janine, a Peruvian boy named David was plagued by this flesh-eating bacteria that left him without a face. Dr. Ian Jackson performed reconstructive surgery and eventually adopted him. Dr. Jackson being the pioneer of such cases was contacted by Janine’s family. He operated on her mutiple times before he had passed away. However, his mentee, Dr. Kongrit Chaiyasate, has offered to help Janine for free. 

The Detroit-based doctor explained, “I have a unique skill-set that I feel should be shared for those in need regardless of their circumstance. The fact that she is still experiencing bullying and isolation for her appearance really affects me, especially as a parent. 

“One of the most rewarding parts of my job is being able to give back what has been taken from somebody.” 

Janine is keen on the reconstruction. “This surgery will make a big difference to my life, changing how I look and giving me a lot more self-confidence; helping me feel more like me,” Janine said to Jam Press. 

“It’s hard for me when I have to go out to the shop or just walk around with my hubby, friends, and family due to the verbal abuse I receive, including name-calling from young people.” 

 The years of bullying has made her feel “worthless” and “like I don’t belong here, as if I am some sort of freak show for everyone to make fun of”. 

Earlier in this year, BBC made an episode featuring Janine’s story in their True North Documentary series[2] 

Read: Woman Experiencing Burning Pains Turns Out To Have Medieval ‘Holy Fire’ Disease

“Walk down the street without hiding her face” 

Dr. Chaiyasate had much experience with reconstruction work with pediatric patients with craniofacial differences, breasts, and post major trauma or cancer treatments. He is well known for “never saying no to a surgical challenge”. Sometimes, he has paid out of pocket to help breast cancer patients and children from Russia and Africa. 

Dr. Chaiyasate theorizes that Janine has outgrown the reconstruction done 20 years ago, and believes he could improve her facial movement and symmetry. 

“We would like to restore her smile and her blinking mechanisms by connecting the nerve graft from the normal side to the affected side.” He explained, “We then will put muscle on the nerve graft so that she can smile and blink. We also want to work on her previous reconstruction to match the other side. I am hoping to restore not only function but some aesthetic balance as well. 

“If she can eat and drink as normal and walk down the street without having to hide her face I will have done my job.” 

The surgery will be extremely tedious and would most likely take most of a day to finish. As Dr. Chaiyasate explained, “We are working with minuscule blood vessels and nerves but I have full confidence in the ability of myself and my team. The risks are similar to risks associated with any long surgery and bleeding, infection, or failure of reconstruction is the most concerning.” 

“To feel like I actually belong here”

Although he offers Janine the surgery free of charge, a GoFundMe page was created to aid the expenses of traveling to the U.S. and paying the hospital and accommodations. The goal is $100,000, and Janine hopes to achieve it quickly so she could make the trip when travel restrictions due to the pandemic are lifted.  

“I aim to have the surgery done as soon as the funds needed are there and as soon as I am allowed to travel,” she said. “I appreciate everything anyone does to help to get me to the USA to see Dr. Chaiyasate. 

“If I was able to get over to the USA and have my surgeries, it would really mean an awful lot to me, it would be a dream come true to be able to feel like I actually belong here, and would enable me to walk past the bullies without them calling me names and making me feel worthless.” [3] 

We hope that Janine will be able to receive the reconstruction surgery and regain the life the disease had taken from her. To contribute to the cause, check out her GoFundMe page

Keep Reading: Experts Warn That ‘Flesh-Eating’ Bacteria May Be Spreading To Seafood, Beaches Due To Climate Change


  1. Necrotising fasciitis. The BMJ. April 27, 2020 
  2. Saving Face. True North. BBC. January 27, 2020 
  3. “Woman who lost parts of face to flesh-eating bug left feeling like ‘freak show’” Katabella Roberts and Chris Kitching. Mirror. November 5, 2020