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A Phoenix Rising: Sujana’s Story

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Sujana is a six-year-old who lives in the outskirts of the Katmandu Valley in Nepal with her parents and two older brothers. They live in a small hut in the hills among the fields that they farm. Sujana is a bright young girl with an infectious and somewhat mischievous smile. She loves to draw and is always sketching beautiful scenes of mountains, flowers, houses, and people.

Life for Sujana’s family had always been hard, but they always had hope and resilience. Originally from the city, they moved to the hills to make a better life for their young family. Sujana’s mother Anita works as a sharecropper and her father works as a day laborer to make ends meet.

Suana’s mother Anita works as a sharecropper

After just six months into their new life, tragedy struck.

It started off just like any other evening. Anita left the house with vegetables to sell at the local market, leaving her elderly mother-in-law at home with the children. They left a candle in the house as a night light.

That night the house caught aflame with the children and the grandmother inside.

Sujana’s two older brothers were lucky and escaped, and their grandmother also made it out of home crawling on her hands and knees. But Sujana was stuck.

“I was 500 meters from the house when I saw my home catch on fire,” recalled Anita. “My heart sunk. I thought I had lost my children. I thought my life had ended. My whole world was in shock and I ran as fast as I could screaming for help. A neighbor boy ran into the house and saved my youngest, Sujana. He was wearing a winter coat and it caught fire as he ran out of the door with my daughter.”

Sujana’s life was saved by her neighbor. The boy was only slightly burned, but Sujana sustained burns on her arms, face, foot, and leg.

For two months Sujana and her mother bounced between hospitals, trying to get Sujana the care she needed to heal her burns. Then tragedy struck the family again when Sujana’s grandmother fell ill and eventually passed away. The family had to return back home and pay for the funeral costs.

“We had nothing left, I was totally out of money.”

That’s when Anita found out about ReSurge International, and the free care available through Dr. Shankar Rai, ReSurge’s Nepal Program Director, at The Nepal Cleft & Burn Center.

Sujana’s surgeon and ReSurge Nepal Program Director, Dr. Shankar Rai

By the time Anita found ReSurge, it had been two years since the accident. Sujana’s burns had contracted, leaving her hand and foot severely deformed from the scar tissue. When a burn is left to heal on its own, tightening scar tissue can disfigure and ruin the function of an appendage: a hand contracts into an immovable fist; or a foot fuses to the shin, making it impossible to walk.

After finding ReSurge, Sujana was able to get her first set of free reconstructive surgeries to heal her contractures, plus weekly check-ups and physical therapy so that she can write, draw, and go to school again.

Anita wants her daughter to become a doctor one day, just like Dr. Rai.

“I moved here with the hope to make a better life for my children. I thought those dreams had been lost in the flames. But I saw how [ReSurge] took care of the burn patients and if my daughter can one day be a doctor, that would be my dream for her.”

Tragedy struck Anita and her family, but thanks to Dr. Rai and the compassionate ReSurge supporters who fund our work, Sujana rose like a Pheonix towards a life of hope and promise.

11 million people are burned every year. In the developing world, where over 96% of fatal fire-related burns occur, Sujana’s story is all too common. Why? Poverty. Nearly half of the world still uses open flames for cooking, heating, or lighting. Women and children are at particular risk. Those who survive their burns are often permanently disabled, costing more than $4 billion per year in lost productivity.

Sujana and her mother, Anita

ReSurge International’s mission is to help families like Anita’s around the world by offering free reconstructive surgical care to patients in need, and by training the next generation of local surgeons like Dr. Rai. ReSurge doesn’t just treat burns, we also treat the full scope of reconstructive care for the child who fell into a cooking fire, the mother who was injured in a motorcycle accident, or the son who was born with a congenital anomaly like a cleft lip or a malignant condition like cancer.

At the end of the day, transforming the lives of our patients is what we are all about. Sujana, is a perfect example of a child full of hope and dreams. When we asked Sujana to tell us about herself, this is what she said.

“My favorite thing to eat is eggs and my best friend is Jiban,” said little Sujana as she drew pictures.

“I am brave and not scared of the hospital. Well, I am a little scared when they do surgery.”

We think Sujana is extremely brave, and can’t wait to see what she accomplishes in the future!

Make a donation today to help families like Anita and Sujana’s get the free reconstructive surgical care they need.

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We are grateful for our opportunity to touch the lives of those needing surgical treatment worldwide and grow sustainable systems for local surgical teams in low-income countries. However, we cannot make an impact without your support. Donate today to create a ripple effect that changes the world through life-changing, no-cost reconstructive surgeries.

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