The Plight of a Burn Victim

Ali being looked after by his brother at the Burns Centre.—White Star

KARACHI: With severe burns all over his body, Ghulam Ali Solangi groans in pain every time he senses the absence of a loved one in his room at the Burns Centre, where he has been admitted since Tuesday morning.

As soon as his mother comes near him, he literally takes a brief sigh of relief. Life for him just means these feeble signals. Ali, in his late 20s, lies wrapped in bandages. Doctors have no hope of his survival.

“My son’s condition is critical but a miracle can save his life. Please pray for him,” says Zainab, standing by his bedside.

She appears to have no clue to what has happened to Ali and claims that his son may have been injured in a cylinder blast at his workplace in Sehwan, Jamshoro district, where he ran a hotel. She was in Hyderabad with his daughters at the time of the incident.

Her elder son, Ahmed, however, told Dawn that his brother was allegedly burnt with petrol by people who were incensed by the relationship his brother had developed with a girl. “The incident had occurred two days ago. An FIR has been registered and the police have also arrested two people in this connection,” he said.

Delayed arrival

Initially, Ali was taken to a government hospital in Dadu for treatment from where he was referred to a health facility in Hyderabad and then brought to the Civil Hospital Karachi’s Burns Centre.

“He was admitted here after a delay of more than 24 hours. Three initial hours are a matter of life and death for a severely burnt patient. Unfortunately, however, there is no other government health facility in the entire province where cases of burns could be immediately taken to and attended,” Dr Ehmar Al-Ibran, senior plastic surgeon, in charge of the Burns Centre told Dawn.

According to him, three accounts were narrated to him on how Ali got burnt. Some people said it was a case of suicide while others believed that Ali got accidentally burnt in a cylinder blast while he was working at a hospital. Another account said the incident was the result of enmity over a girl.

“Whatever the case may be, the patient has severe deep burns all over his body. There is no chance that he could survive,” he said.

Survival in burn cases, he said, depended on the depth of burn wounds. “We are giving him oxygen right now along with symptomatic treatment that included therapy for pain relief.”

In case of severe burns, skin releases certain secretions, including toxins, which gradually destroys the body and causes death in five to seven days. “We can’t transplant the entire skin. Exposed skin also means high vulnerability to infections.”

This month, he said, the centre received three more severe burn cases; all linked to suicide in which the victims apparently took their lives because of joblessness.

Experts say the province desperately needs more health facilities to cater to burn patients as many lives are either lost or the patient suffers life-long physical disability owing to delay in treatment. The emotional trauma a patient experiences is another challenge.

There is also a need for creating awareness of the first aid measures required to attend to such patients, they say.

By: FAIZA ILYAS

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