Hope after Fire


Fire accident survivors often find themselves in an unimaginable hell — disfigured and deformed, they battle depression on one side and societal rejection on the other. Not to mention the fight for earning a sim- ple livelihood. No surprise, therefore, that many of them wish that they had died rather than survived the fire accident.

But for 155 fire accident victims in and around Coimbatore, hope has indeed returned, thanks to ‘Hope After Fire’ (HAF), a unique flagship project of Rotary Club of Coimbatore Metrop- olis (RCCM), being carried out in con- cert with Ganga Hospital, Coimbatore, since 2012.

Leading the project is Rtn Dr S Raja Sabapathy, Director of Ganga Hospital and Head of its Plastic Sur- gery wing. He points out that follow- ing a series of surgical reconstructions (carried out free for needy patients), the victims are able to return in a much better shape and, more importantly, able to use their limbs to do produc- tive work.

Take the case of Nivedita, the first patient of ‘HAF.’ Scars in the face, neck and hands from a blaze had incapacitated this 10+ student in Theni three years ago. Following a series of surgical pro- cedures she was able to resume her stud- ies. Today she is a top ranker at Apollo Polytechnic College, Chennai where she is pursuing higher studies.

For Kavitha of Mettupalayam, burns to her face and hands had caused severe deformities. She could see only straight due to the contraction of the skin-folds near her eyes and had to keep her face covered in public. The HAF team of surgeons did a series of procedures on her face and hands and restored not just her appearance and mobility but also her self-confidence. She learnt tailoring and with the help of an NGO, opened a tailoring shop. And now wishes to adopt a baby that would be a useful citizen of the coun- try tomorrow!

A tea-break fire accident threw Babu of Ooty into a veritable hell. Major burns to his face and upper body, totally disfigured him with his chin getting fused with his chest. He presented a scary visage to children of his neighbourhood. A marathon 7-hour operation, in which his face was released from his chest and tis- sues from his thighs were taken to fill the gap by microvascular surgery, vastly improved his appearance and confidence. ‘HAF has given him a face, to face the world confidently,’ says Dr Sabapathy with a quiet sense of achievement.

These are just a few of the heart-warming stories scripted by the joint project of RCCM and Ganga Hospital. The partners are com- mitted to not only keep it going but also expand its reach significantly to cover many more.

Successive leaders of RCCM have wholeheartedly sup- ported it through regular fundraising (well over Rs 51 lakh) since 2012. Until April 30, 2015, Rs 87 lakh were spent on 243 reconstructive surgeries on 155 needy burn victims.

Burns are India’s 3rd biggest ‘bur- den of disease’ as more than 3 million of its people suffer from burns each year (as noted by Resurge Interna- tional). For every burn-related death, it is estimated that there are at least 10 severely burnt survivors with deform- ities that require highly skilled series of reconstructive surgeries.

“This is an excellent project that is worthy of being upgraded to the district level to serve larger number of bene- ficiaries,” says DG Kamlesh Raheja.

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