Leela has been on more Rotaplast missions than some of our volunteers, only she has been our patient, twice in Faridabad in 2015 and 2016, and this year in Agra. The above photo was taken last week.
These two photos are of Leela before her first surgery. Here is her story taken from the Rotaplast blog in 2015:
“From the first day of clinic this shy 15 year old girl covered her face and did not want to be seen. A year ago she was helping in the kitchen on a rural farm kneading dough with a kerosene lantern overhead, when her hand hit the lantern which fell and broke on her head, dousing her face and neck with kerosene which then caught on fire. She was taken to a hospital where she was bandaged and given some medicine, but only stayed there for 15 days, so her burns were not fully addressed. Because of this she has many scars and her eye is so damaged from the burns that she can not fully close it. She did not feel comfortable going back to school, so she stopped going, only completing eighth grade. Her father found out about Rotaplast and borrowed money from a friend and boarded a train for twelve hours to get here.” Chantal Eadeh and Sue Mardinly, Rotaplast blog, November 29, 2015.”
Leela after that first surgery, which released some of the burn scars on the right side of her face, neck and chest requiring two skin grafts from stomach and thigh, major surgeries themselves, during a four hour surgery. These surgeries are very painful, but Leela was a trooper. Her grafts healed well with extensive follow up. She meant every word on that sign.
As a result, when Leela returned last year, she could smile. Her second surgery would release the scars around her right eye.
Fast forward to November 2017 On clinic day, there was a young woman sitting in the waiting area; I was drawn to her and kept walking around looking at her, wondering if this could be Leela. I finally asked, and she gave me a big beautiful smile and said, “Yes!”. Tears flooded my eyes. Leela was scheduled on our second day of surgery for more skin grafts to release the scars around her nose and neck. This will be her last surgery.
Since her surgery, Leela (who loves pink!) has been very busy on the ward with Chelsa and Sophie, doing art projects, puzzles and whipping out quite a few fingerwoven bracelets as gifts for the other patients. Here, she and Chelsa are weaving bracelets.
Leela and her dad are shown here with four members of our current team who were in Faridabad for Leela’s first surgery two years ago: Devi Tantri (Surgeon), who did all three of Leela’s surgeries, Neal Fleming (Lead Anesthesiologist), Suresh Pahwa (Medical Records) and myself. Other members from our original team were happy to hear how well Leela is doing, and hope to write letters to her.
Leela has not been to school since her accident. The Rotaplast missions have been scheduled during exam time, and exams can’t be missed. A very bright young woman, she does plan to return to school next semester.
Leela’s life has been dramatically changed. She and her dad are so grateful to have found Rotaplast that she quickly agreed to let her story be told, pictures and all. We are delighted to have had her with us on this mission and wish our beloved Leela all the very best.
The below photo is before this year’s surgery to Leela’s eye and nose. With most patients, we are with them that one time and don’t see the result of their surgery, but we have been fortunate to see the changes from Leela’s first two surgeries. We may never see the after photo from this surgery. It was very difficult to say goodbye, but Leela will be forever in our hearts.
We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do. Mother Teresa