On a recent trip to Nepal, volunteer hand therapist Dr. Nancy Chee met a little girl named Subhana and her uncle Krishna – both patients with burn injuries. Nancy learned that when Subhana was 6 years old, she was visiting her great uncle Krishna and his wife. On this occasion, she stayed overnight for the first time and while they were sleeping, a fire somehow broke out in the house.
Because Krishna and his wife normally would not have had someone else at home, they both ran out of the burning house before suddenly realizing their niece was still inside.
They ran back in, and as Krishna was carrying Subhana back out, the smoke and fire engulfed them. His wife pushed them out of the house from behind but tragically did not survive. Krishna and Subhana survived, although he was in a coma for two months.
Subhana received severe burns on her hands and arms, particularly on her left hand. She was initially treated by a therapist and doctor, who kept her wounds immobilized and splinted her hand to stay straight for six months. As a result, her hand became very stiff and she wasn’t able to make a fist or use it for everyday activities.
It wasn’t until she met Dr. Shankar Rai, the head of ReSurge’s Surgical Outreach Program in Kathmandu, that she was able to get the surgical care she needed. She has received multiple surgeries through the outreach program to restore her hand functionality. After surgery, she also received physical therapy with Mohan Dangol, a therapist at our Surgical Outreach Program whom Nancy has mentored for several years.
“Mohan is amazing in what he has learned,” said Nancy. Together, they set Subhana up with a pink dynamic splint to help stretch her fingers back down into place. “Of course, it has to be pink, matching her dress, and she is all smiles – even with her missing front tooth!” Nancy told us.
Now in the third grade at school, Subhana has recovered well. She is once again able to enjoy picking flowers and playing board games like she used to.
Krishna sustained extensive burns on his chest, back and both arms and hands in the fire. But because of a heart condition, he is not a candidate for further reconstructive surgeries. Though he bears these scars for rest of his life, he feels blessed to be alive, and to have Subhana and other family by his side.
Photos: Susan Louie and Nancy Chee