Thuong, 17, has a bright smile and a deep-seated kindness, despite the fact that she has spent far more time in hospitals than most girls her age.
When she was 10 years old, Thuong was studying in her home when the electricity went out. Determined to continue her studies, she fetched a kerosene lamp to give her light.
Kerosene lamps are used widely in rural areas of Asia and Africa, where electricity is not reliably available. There are dangers in using combustion lamps like these, however, including indoor air pollution and the risk of fire or explosion.
Tragically, in Thuong's case the lamp suddenly exploded. She survived, but sustained severe burns on more than 70% of her body.
We met Thuong and her mother on a recent surgical team trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It took them six hours of travel by bus to come and see our team on clinic day. Prior to seeing our team, Thuong had already had 13 hospitalizations for her burn injuries.
The team examined Thuong and took particular note of burn scar contractures that had formed on her neck, preventing her from fully lifting her head. Despite the hardships she has faced in her young life, Thuong has a bright spirit and smiled at everyone she saw on the team.
Dr. Jorge Palacios, director of our Surgical Outreach Program in Ecuador, was on the trip and determined that he could help give her head and neck more mobility and function.
During surgery, Dr. Palacios released the contracture on Thuong's neck and grafted additional tissue to the area, which will allow her to lift and move her head much more easily. The operation went well, and even in the recovery room as she awoke from surgery, Thuong was already smiling with gratitude.
Burn injuries like Thuong's are unfortunately not uncommon in many parts of the world. Learn more about burns and how we are leading the way in burn care.