One of the major complications to F.'s case is that her left eye has had severe contractures in both the upper and lower eyelids. Our incredible chief of surgery had already tried twice to release the contracture and apply a small skin graft under the eye . . . both times the graft site became infected and the transplanted skin didn't take . . . both times the contractures returned.
Last week was round three.
This morning as I came onto the surgical ward to check on my patients I heard a little voice yell from down the hallway . . . 'DEBORIE, GA NI!!!!' ('Déborah, here I am!')
I looked up, surprised. I knew the voice . . . she's only recently begun to say a handful of words to me, what shocked me was that she had yelled! I smiled and waved as she began to hobble down the hallway faster than I've ever seen her move. The bandages from the donor site on her right thigh tugged and pulled on the large scab forming beneath them, but the pain didn't stop her.
'LOOK AT MY EYE!' She shouted, smile spread wide across her face, as I knelt down next to her. 'THANK YOU, DEBORIE!! THANK YOU!'
|That smile says it all!|
I'll never forget the first time F. saw herself in the mirror in my gym. I'm not sure how many times she had actually seen her own reflection before her burns, but that day she had caught a glimpse of someone in the wall-sized mirror. She paused and looked around . . . recognizing Granny and B., my assistant, and even me. It took her a second, but she realized that fourth person . . . the littlest one . . . the one with all the red spots and thick lines over the cheeks and chin was her. She didn't react, she just stood there and stared.
Our face is our identity. It is the public image of who we are. God made each of us unique . . . and beautiful. But when a person's face is so severely burned and distorted, it has a profound affect on that person's entire wellbeing. Plastic surgery isn't always about making a nose smaller or boobs bigger . . . sometimes it's to save the vision of a four-year-old who was traumatized . . . sometimes it's to keep her looking like a precious little girl rather than a character in a sci-fi movie . . . sometimes it's to keep strangers from gawking and staring.
Tomorrow B. and I will pull a new mask for F. One that will cover her whole face, including the top of her head that has just fully healed, yet already has scars forming. Thankfully, Cold Season is starting, but come March it will be too hot again and I'm not sure we can convince her to keep it on. We have a small window of time, and it's our last chance to make a significant difference in the fight against the hypertrophic scars on her face. But just hearing her sweet voice scream out 'THANK YOU!' fills me with hope . . . and reminds me that what we do at Galmi Hospital is worth every struggle, failure and discouragement.