Kanchana is a bright young nurse in Sri Lanka. She graduated eleventh out of 30,000 nursing students in her country and is dedicated and energetic about her work as a nurse. Where she is today is a far cry from where she was a few years ago. During her first year in nursing school, a male acquaintance threw acid on her while she was on her way to school. The violent practice is common in this region of the world, and most women are targeted for their beauty, out of jealousy, or for refusing the advances of the person who accosts them.Kanchana had to undergo many painful operations, hair loss and the wearing of a facial mask for months to reduce scarring. Dr. Chandini Perera, Interplast’s partner in Sri Lanka, performed Kanchana’s much-needed operations and provided her the needed after-care. In addition to restoring her functionality and reducing her disfigurements, Perera also fought to have Kanchana continue with her nursing studies. The school administrators thought it would be too distracting and disturbing for other nursing students and teachers to look at Kanchana, who needed to wear pressure garments to ensure proper healing. Perera also helped Kanchana seek legal justice, and the perpetrator is in jail.
Now healed but still with some scarring, Kanchana works as a nurse at Perera’s hospital, but not without another fight with hospital administrators who believed her scars would disturb the patients. Kanchana’s smile and efficiency are doing just the opposite; she is telling her story when asked, and so many patients have stories of their own. Kanchana is having an empowering effect on those she meets and is raising awareness about violence against women and the discrimination against those with disfigurement and disabilities.
She is moving forward and focusing on a profession that allows her to give back the same care she received. Though this event forever changed Kanchana’s life, her will remains strong and she has persevered against all odds with her caring nature intact.
She is one of our many patients who continually inspire us and reinforce our belief that reconstructive surgery can be the tool to a new beginning. By removing one of the many major obstacles that our patients face, these surgeries make it possible for them to strive for their full potential, just like Kanchana has.
After photo by Phil Borges.