Tan Tho’s surgery was one of the longest procedures the team performed during our trip. His nearly six-hour surgery consisted of placing a skin graft taken from his leg onto his neck to release his neck contracture. When one’s body is burned the skin contracts in an effort to close the wound. When not treated correctly, these wounds become contractures which can lead to deformities. In Tan Tho’s case, his neck contracture kept his head tilted to the side and his mouth partially open. After his surgery and with medical clearance, Tan Tho continue his recovery at home under the care of his parents. A week later he returned to hospital to have his dressings changed by the team. The improvement in Tan Tho’s posture was undeniable; he could now hold his head up straight and fully open and close his mouth. As the surgeons removed his dressings, Tan Tho asked to be given a mirror so he could see his skin graft. Despite the functionality a skin graft can offer a burn patient such as Tan Tho, they are difficult to look at so soon after surgery. Tan Tho didn’t seem to mind this fact; he wanted to see and understand his surgery. After handing him a mirror, he took one look, thanked the team and without saying another word allowed them to once again cover his graft so it could continue to heal.
Photo by Zane Williams