“We are going to be operating on the little girl… she is 14 months old. When she was 9 months old she was wrapped in a blanket on a hammock while her mother was working around the house. Flames from the burning embers, which were placed around to keep the mosquitoes away, caught the blanket on fire and burned this child.”
This is Dr. Stafford Broumand, a busy New York City plastic surgeon, as he describes the tragic story of his upcoming surgery. He’s in a poor, remote area of Managua, Nicaragua and he has just arrived at the family home of his young patient, Yudeisy, to evaluate her condition. “Many of these families live in shacks or shanty-type villages where they often burn their trash on the open ground without barriers or any kind of protection from smoldering embers or sparks. This is a common occurrence and how children in Central America get burned every day.”
State-of-the-Art Burn Hospital Offers Free Care
Dr. Broumand will perform multiple surgeries during his visit at a non-profit organization called Aproquen. The hospital, located in Managua, Nicaragua employs a fully-trained dedicated staff, welcoming children up to the age of 15, for treatment free of charge.
Aproquen was founded in 1991 by Vivian Pellas, a resident of Nicaragua who suffered burns and broken bones along with her husband in a 1989 plane crash, the worst Central America has ever seen. Pellas has since made Aproquen her life’s mission. It has also become a mission and a way to give back for Dr. Broumand who is on his third trip of coming to Aproquen to perform plastic surgery on children like Yudeisey.
Treating these Children Involves an Entire Team of Specialists
As Dr. Broumand walks to the porch to meet the family for the first time, he sees the extent of the child’s burns on her head, torso and legs. Without this surgery, the likelihood of Yudeisy being able to walk are non-existent. The scaring from the burns are so bad, they have encapsulated her entire left foot and ankle making it impossible to stand up or use the foot.
“Basically this surgery is to make her function better and to give her whatever hope we can as far as appearance. It’s not just the surgeries that I do, that’s just the band aid. Aproquen has put together a team of professionals that will help with the compression garments, the physical therapy, the continued treatment and occupational therapy. The team will be working with her to make her life as good as it can be considering this devastating accident.”
The next day the surgery goes well and you can see the relief on the mother’s face as she kisses her daughter in the recovery room. Unfortunately, as Yudeisy continues to grow she will need additional surgeries and extensive physical therapy. The professional team and doctors at Aproquen will be there each step of the way, offering a variety of free services including dental and cleft palate repairs, counseling and even a place for the patient’s family to stay while the child goes through surgery and rehabilitation.
“When you give back to these kids and help with an institution that is devoted to improving kid’s lives—personally, it’s invaluable. What I’ve found is when you deal with kids who have been burned, they don’t know they’ve been burned. They have no idea there’s anything different than any other child. They just want to play and be like other children. We’re trying to give back some positive benefits to these kids so they can live a better life.”
Burns are an everyday occurrence in many low and middle-income countries
Burns account for a significant proportion of pediatric morbidity and mortality worldwide, especially in low income countries such as Central America. Statistics tell us the majority of burns are due to fire or scalding, often related to cooking or open fire pits. Aproquen knows the key to decreasing the burn numbers in their communities is through education and outreach.