The Aga Khan Hospital in Mombasa in partnership with the Reconstructing Women International began conducting its free reconstructive surgeries for fire accident survivors in the country.
On Saturday, local and international specialists performed operations on women and girls suffering from accidental burns and domestic violence injuries.
Thirty women and girls, the youngest being a four-year-old, will undergo the operation.
The patients, majority of whom come from rural parts of Kenya including Samburu, could not afford the reconstructive surgery. The average cost of the operation is Sh150,000.
In addition, patients from Coast region could not easily access the treatment due to lack of specialist surgeons in the area. Patients had to travel to Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi for the procedure.
Two expectant mothers with burn injuries will also undergo a caesarean-section to give birth.
“They [the 30 patients] will all be operated on over the Easter weekend; this is giving back to the society. We thank the Reconstructing Women International team. It is the very first time in Kenya. It is life transforming lives,” Aga Khan Hospital Mombasa Chief Executive Officer Irfan Khan said on Saturday.
He said the free medical service will change the lives of women and girls with deformities and injuries.
People with deformities often feel stigmatised.
“This facility, the health services and the Aga Khan Development Network focuses on women and girls in all our programmes.
“We want to help them change their lives, enable them do their day-to-day chores and feel [that they are] part of the society,” Mr Khan said.
He said those with hand deformities will be able to write again.
“Our local surgeons are working hand-in-hand with a team of Reconstructing Women International. It is not just an international team coming in but our local experts as well. We thank our sponsors, including Diamond Trust Bank and the Ministry of Tourism,” the CEO added.
He said internationally renowned surgeons will build capacity for the local doctors.
Chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery Andrea Pusic, who is also a professor of surgery at Harvard University, said the team will give lectures to local physicians and students on new reconstructive surgery techniques.
“We are also growing capacity of local surgeons. We are all-female plastic surgeons. This is a special combination because in some cases a woman may only feel comfortable with being examined by a team of female physicians,” Prof Pusic added.
She said they are targeting women and girls because they often do not seek help when they are injured, and sometimes do not receive the same resources or help as men and boys.
“When a woman is injured, it has a very big impact on the family. When we treat these women they will be able to go home, work and take care of their families and girls will be able to go back to school,” Prof Pusic added.
The surgeon said the aim of the operation is to restore the ability of the women and girls to function as normal.
“If it’s a woman who has a burn on the hand we will restore her ability to use the hand. This kind of operation can take an hour or two," she said.
However, other more complex operations could take more hours. She cited cases in which severe burns on the neck and chest make the patient unable to look up or move her head.
Prof Pusic said younger patients with contractions of the elbow and shoulder who are unable to move their arms are among the most severe cases.
“Initial healing is about a week or two. But this kind of surgery requires longer healing in terms of returning to function, and physical therapy and massaging of scars. Full healing might be more like four to six weeks,” she added.