Depak was an eight year-old boy from India who I met during the 2013 LEAP trip to Damoh. He had extensive burn scars from an accident, which left him without both of his hands. His right elbow had so much scarring that he was unable to fully extend his right arm. This was preventing him from progressing in school. Despite these extensive injuries, he delighted the LEAP team by showing us that he was able to write the entire English alphabet in capital letters. His penmanship was remarkable, better than most physicians can write! He is a very bright and engaging boy and soon had a crowd gathered to watch him. Depak was always polite and respectful. He was a very serious fellow, focused on his task at hand. But when asked to smile, his whole face lit up. What a charmer. He just wanted to be able to go to school and learn.
Depak and his father had arrived at camp after the initial assessment day, so they did not have the opportunity to get on the surgical schedule. Depak’s father implored us daily, and waited for us outside of the surgical center. As I was frequently in the tents checking on post-op patients, I saw him many times. The hope in the eyes of these parents touches your heart; they are diligent in advocating for their children.
LEAP surgeons had done a contracture release for a burn scar in the prior year, and word had begun to spread that there was hope for these children. Open fires and oil candles are common in this region, and many children suffer injury from accidental burns. There were several burn patients throughout the week, and the surgeons were able to work some of them at the end of long surgical days. You can imagine that it is very hard to turn these children away.
Finally, after several days of waiting, Dr. Matthew Trovato performed a contracture release on Depak. When I went to see him in the post-op ward, his father came to me, put his hands together as in prayer, and bowed to me in thanks, weeping. It humbles all of us, how thankful and grateful these families are that we are there. It is a privilege and an honor to serve them, and I am thankful that there are so many generous people who support this good work. As a nurse practitioner, I can’t think of any better way to give back; I feel like I have been so fortunate to be a part of LEAP.
Cheryl D. Shell, RN, CPNP