Take a good look at my picture here. Look closer. Does it remind you of anyone? No? Well, believe it or not people have come up to me over the years convinced they knew me from somewhere. In fact, some were certain I wasn’t who I said I was. Which was news to me and completely baffling.
It threw me the first time this happened. We were on holidays in Corfu and got talking to a bunch of lads who lived in my home city of Cork. One of them asked if I lived on the northside of the city, to which I replied no – I had never resided there. He tried a different approach: did I go to a certain bar? Eh, no. It was not a bar I had ever been to. He was puzzled, while I couldn’t figure out how he could confuse me with anyone. What threw me was how he could think anyone looked like me? At that stage, although I was married, I had never encountered anyone with facial disfigurement. Of course I had read of others who were facially disfigured, and seen some of their photos, but none resembled me.
A couple of years later the same thing happened. Again someone thought I lived on the city’s northside. I wondered if my double existed given that these people were genuinely convinced I had a double. I wouldn’t say I was obsessed at finding the other Tom Hickey, but curiosity was getting the better of me.
And then I came across a book by James Partridge. Changing Faces: The Challenge of Facial Disfigurement. It tells not just the story of Partridge’s road accident and his burns injuries, but his problems adjusting to the problems that stemmed from facial disfigurement. The success of the book inspired him to set up his own charity, Changing Faces, which is doing a lot of fantastic work helping those whose faces don’t conform to the norm, and educating professionals and the media about the condition.
What came as a big shock was seeing Partridge’s face back then – it was almost like mine. It gave me quite a start, and for the first time I realised, yes, there must be someone who looks something like me in Cork.
Whoever it was, I never met him. I’d like to think this mystery man has led a full and fairly normal life like myself. Here’s hoping he has.