Nuzvid, India, February 2005
Gifford Memorial Hospital
Della Bennett, MD
5th Year Plastic Surgery Resident
Loma Linda University Medical Center
Our Good Samaritan
During our initial assessment of patients we encountered a young man who had a terrible electrical burn injury to his right wrist. The injury completely incapacitated his right hand; he had injured nerves, muscles, and tendons. It was too complex of a case for us to take on.
We knew we could help another young female, Santosh, by releasing her burn contractures. However, her blood count was too low for us to be able to operate unless she received preoperative transfusions. There is no blood bank in this area of India so a search was started for possible matching donors. The young man with the hand injury, despite being denied his own surgery, donated blood to Santosh so we could perform her operation. I call him our "Good Samaritan."
Assessment of Need
During our visit we successfully increased Dr. Rao's confidence in taking full thickness skin grafts and performing scar contracture release for burn reconstruction. The nursing students were also trained in providing appropriate peri-operative wound care and surgical assisting skills.
There is a continuing need for burn and hand reconstruction and craniofacial surgery. In addition, there is a major need for community education for the prevention of burns. Also to avoid burn complications GMH needs to be able to treat patients who present at the time of the burn injury.
This young woman arrived during the outreach team's visit. She refused to be transferred to the burn care facility in the neighboring city because she said she could not afford care there. She had seventy percent total body surface burns that will be treated at GMH with conservative wound care. She needed to have immediate surgical intervention and skin grafting to prevent the burn contractures similar to those suffered by the other patients we treated.
Being able to travel to an area where the people have few resources and to donate the skills that I have been trained with was very rewarding. After so many years of medical training you begin to wonder: "When will I be able to make a difference?" This trip showed me--NOW is the time to make a difference, and we CAN make a difference. Whether it is organizing a mission trip, working in a homeless shelter, donating blood, or even doing surgery to minimize functional deficits and congenital disfigurements, we each can do our part to make this world a better place.
This outreach program was supported in part by a generous contribution from KCI - USA.