Healing the wounds of “burn” victims, the inspiring story of Pragya Prasun
In India, there are up to 70 lakh burn victims annually, with a fatality rate of up to 1.4 lahks, as revealed by Union Minister Harsh Vardhan while opening the Burns and Plastic Surgery Block at AIIMS in Delhi in 2021.
The statistics are alarming, but the bigger question lies – Are we doing anything? Or do we have any idea how it feels? There is no prize in guessing the answer as a big “NO”.
But Pragya Prasun, the founder of Atijeevan – a non-profit dedicated to burn survivors, understands, and this is because……..
Pragya herself is a fighter
“For over one and a half years, I was getting my treatment done in the burns ward. I have seen the misery of the patients around and how difficult it is to come out and live a normal life post-burn trauma,” said Pragya while talking to UPDEED.
Pragya was shocked while observing that most burn patients come from underprivileged backgrounds, and they largely remain unaware of what treatment or surgery the doctor will give and what will be the effect? However, Pragya used to focus much on her recovery rather than giving up on the whole trauma or feeling bad.
Pragya said: “I was aware, conscious and used to ask questions as to what was going to be done to my body for the treatment and used to educate other people about how these scars and wounds would heal faster and what they need to do, to recover much sooner than they expect.”
Doctors started appreciating her positive approach towards recovery and requested sessions to counsel their burn patients.
“That, in a way, helped me heal myself. When you are giving hope to people giving up on life, that healed me from inside,” said Pragya in an energising tone.
In 2013, Pragya visited Mumbai National Burns Center as part of her protest against an acid attack survivor. There she met Dr Suneil Manohar Keshwani, who heads this centre.
“He took me for a tour of his hospital and was impressed by my approach. He told me to start something formally as you are the best person to support these burn patients,” said Pragya.
This particular incident clicked and gave Pragya the confidence to do something. This took the form of an initiative, and that’s how……….
Atijeevan Foundation came to life
With Atijeevan, Pragya’s main goal is to provide burn survivors with the knowledge about the right treatment.
It is essential for burn survivors to understand what is happening around them, what kinds of treatments are available, and what can be done in terms of reconstructive surgery. There are so many non-surgical treatments that could improve the scar’s appearance, but they remain unaware of the same.
“I want to provide them with the right treatment so that their suffering and pain can be reduced and recovery is much faster,” said Pragya.
For acid and burn attack survivors, , their life shatters after the incident.. The need is to empower them and make them financially independent. This will eventually give them the courage to face society more confidently; they can help themselves and support their families without needing to depend on others.
To that end, Atijeevan Foundation works on two fronts. As per Pragya, there are many girls who couldn’t complete their education as they are attacked during their course of education. Now, here, some girls are of the opinion that they will continue their education, while others don’t want to.
“For those who wish to complete their education, we arrange and support them to complete their education and try to place them in the industry as per their capability,” said Pragya.
“For others, we started our social enterprise, which provides them with work or skilled training to make certain products. We train them to make products from their home, help them market these products and sell them in their own vicinity,” she added.
Challenges and way forward
Face disfigurement was not even considered a disability. It was not even in the PwD Act earlier, but after 2016 it became a part of it. Soon after, some corporates opened up their gate for burn survivors. However, that was still not sufficient.
“We ran a campaign to hire at least one of their survivor, to see how good they are and be hard-working. We haven’t asked for any money or any donation. We are just trying to give them a chance to showcase their skill and working style,” said Pragya.
Moving ahead, we, as a society, need acceptance of different kinds of people with different kinds of disabilities. It starts from a very early age.
In Pragya’s words: “Empowering our children to accept inclusion in the school. We need to make them aware that there are people who don’t have ears, eyes, or have face disfigurement; they might not be fortunate like us, but they are part of our society.”
The appeal for skin donation
Pragya Prasun has experienced challenges throughout her life, and she understands well how much pain and suffering one has to face. Even after all these hardships, she is working for those burn survivors who are either left alone by their own families or society cannot accept them fully.
Pragya nowadays is on a mission and is appealing to people to come out for “skin donation”.
“One skin donor can save the lives of up to three burn patients. We will be able to save patients, and we need cooperation from society,” Pragya concluded.
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