Life became a “living hell” for Niharika (name changed) after she attempted suicide by self-immolation. For her mother who had to feed, bathe and tend to her continuously, it became an intolerable drudgery.

Burn scar contractures on her lip, neck and arms had made her life unliveable. Burn scar contracture refers to the tightening of the skin after second or third degree burns. When the skin is burned, the surrounding skin pulls together and contracts. If not treated as soon as possible, the scar results in restriction of movement around the injured area. The chin becomes attached to the chest, and the arms and fingers lose their mobility. Bad burn scar contractures do not heal by themselves and such patients require skin grafting.

Deliverance came to Niharika in the form of women plastic surgeons of the International Confederation for Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery (IPRAS)'s ‘Women for Women' programme.

New York-based plastic surgeon Andrea Pusic is in the city for the second time to work with a team of other plastic surgeons at Salaja Hospital here. Dr. Pusic, another New York-based surgeon Alexes Hazen, Canadian surgeon Nancy Van Laeken, city-based cosmetic and plastic surgeons Lakshmi and her husband Saleem performed 70 procedures on 26 patients since they arrived here a couple of days ago, at a free surgery camp. Niharika, who had a very bad case of neck contracture, was operated on for the second time by Dr. Pusic. In future, her dependency on her mother would be greatly reduced, she said.

As there were no cases of women suffering burns due to violence and suicide attempts in the West, their heart really went out to such women, said the three plastic surgeons who took time off from their schedules to come here and perform the operations free of charge.

“It is very difficult to do these procedures alone. But as a team it was easier and the risk for the patient was also very less,” said Dr. Hazen.

‘From teams'

In a message to other women plastic surgeons in the country, the IPRAS Women for Women programme members said that they should form into teams and perform the operations to reduce the drudgery.

Devika (name changed), a victim of domestic violence, is yet another patient to whose rescue the IPRAS plastic surgeons came. Burn scar contracture on her hand was operated upon by them and she was able to find employment in a factory.

Her hand got burnt when she tried to protect her face from the hot ‘rasam' that her ex-husband threw on her face.

The visiting plastic surgeons lauded the service being rendered to the poor by the Salaja Hospitals and the high standards that were being maintained in it.

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