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The Incredible Impact of Reconstructive Surgery: Punkaj

In early 2013, ReSurge sent a team trip to Dehradun, India, where we have a Surgical Outreach Program run by Drs. Yogi and Kush Aeron. One of our former patients who visited the team in Dehradun during clinic day was Punkaj, and his story truly highlights the impact of reconstructive surgery on a patient's life.

Punkaj was a normal 10-year-old boy who liked tea. One day as he went to prepare his cup of tea, the crude stove he was using to heat the water suddenly exploded right in front of him, severely burning his chest, neck and arms. Without access to proper care for severe burns like these, Punkaj's injury was left to "heal" by itself.

Consequentially, his skin shrank up to close the wounds, creating what are known as burn scar contractures. Punkaj developed these contractures over his neck and arms, rendering him unable to lift his arms or turn his head.

The webbed skin that formed between his chin and chest made him look frightening to other children. He also was unable to attend school, since he needed to ride a bicycle to get to there and the contractures made it impossible for him to lift his arms high enough to reach the handlebars.

In 2007, ReSurge performed surgery on him to release the burn contracture on his neck. In 2009, Punkaj returned to have the contractures on his arms released. Punkaj wanted to be able to ride his bike to attend school and the contractures on his arms made it impossible for him to lift his arms high enough to reach the handlebars.

And on this last trip, Punkaj returned to welcome our team and thank them for their help throughout the years. During his visit, our surgeons offered to do some revision work on his neck. Punkaj turned down this offer because he has school exams coming up.

When he was 14, Punkaj asked for surgery that would allow him to attend school like most boys his age. Now, because he is able to attend school, he has turned down surgery - a true testament of how Punkaj's life and functionality have been restored. His priorities have shifted, and our surgeons were more than happy to oblige.

Currently in college, Punkaj hopes to become an elementary school teacher one day. Thanks to the surgical care he received, he is very well on his way to a brighter future.


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Severe burns remain a neglected health crisis in developing countries, particularly among poor women and children. Learn more about the staggering scope and solutions.