On our recent clinic day in La Paz, Bolivia, a familiar masked face walked in the door to see our surgical team. We had met Lady, now 32 years old, last year when she came to have surgery on her right hand, and she shared with us the story of how she came to wear a surgical mask wherever she goes.
Three years ago, Lady had a small business selling food on the street because her family needed the money. She and her husband have three children to support, now 15, 13 and 4 years old. She would cook the food she sold in her home on a small portable stove, and one day while cooking she accidentally kicked the propane tank and the hose for the tank disconnected from the stove. Because Lady was cooking at the time, the gas leak caused a sudden explosion, and she was burned all over her body, particularly on her face and hands. Her youngest child, who was one year old at the time, was home but thankfully was not near the stove when it exploded.
Lady has endured several surgeries since that time, but she wears the mask because she is ashamed of the way her face now looks from the scarring. The burn scars on her arms and hands also restricted her movement and ability to work, so she came to ReSurge for help. She was unable to straighten her fingers and her middle finger pulled down dramatically toward her palm.
Our surgical partner in Bolivia, Dr. Jorge Terrazas, and volunteer surgeon Dr. Jonathan Rausky performed surgery to release her fingers so she will be able to use her hand normally. She is still a saleswoman, but she now stays away from propane stoves and sells shoes instead. Our hope is that she regains full functionality in her hands and someday gets to the point where she can move beyond her mask.
Photos by Darcy Padilla