Si Thu is a 14-year-old boy from Mon State, Burma. His extended family have recently bought him across the Thai-Burma border into Thailand for treatment.
Si Thu’s parents are farmers; in wet season they grow rice and the rest of the year they grow beans. Most of their rice produce is for the consumption of the family of three as well as their extended family. Si Thu’s mother explains that in the cold season their extended family, all living in the same farm compound, light up the fire pit so that they can warm themselves by the flames. In February 2011, Si Thu was feeling cold and was sitting by himself with his back to the fire pit. He had multiple layers of clothing on and he was well alight before he even realized that he had caught fire. Si Thu didn’t know what to do so he started running to reach his house. Once inside his mother put out the flames by patting him with wet clothes. By the time the flames were put out, Si Thu had sustained burns to large areas of his back and arms.
TREATMENT IN BURMA:
On the day of the injury his family took him to a district hospital an hour away from their home. They were very surprised when they arrived as there were only three patients in the whole hospital. The doctor and nurse that were present were dismissive and treated Si Thu and his family as if they were low status villagers whom would not have any money to pay for services rendered. Despite the seriousness of his burns, Si Thu was discharged after only three days. A government-trained midwife in Si Thu’s village then took over care of the teenager, dressing his wounds every day and getting him to undertake arm exercises to reduce potential contractures of scarring tissue. The midwife did not charge for caring for Si Thu nor did she charge the family for the supplies she was using. The midwife was successful at stopping a major infection but in April 2011, two months after injury, scar tissue around both his elbow joints formed in a thick column that prevented normal extension. At times the family used traditional medicine oils to try and treat his contractures.
JOURNEY TO THE MAE TAO CLINIC (MTC):
When this was to no avail, people in their village advised Si Thu’s parents that he needed to be taken to Rangoon or to the Mae Tao Clinic (MTC) for treatment. His parents had no money to pay for health care in Rangoon. That left Mae Tao Clinic as their only choice as they had heard that operations, medicine and care is free of charge. When Si Thu arrived at Mae Tao Clinic, he was referred to BCMF. His family do not have the money to return home so they will stay at the Mae Tao Clinic patient house until they are transferred to Chiang Mai to commence treatment. With a backlog of new patients and existing patients waiting for surgery, Si Thu and his mother will be at the patient house for at least a month before they are transferred. Si Thu has a large area on his back that has yet to heal and scar so the open wound will have daily dressings attended at the clinic while he is awaiting transfer to Chiang Mai.
SI THU’S EDUCATION AND FUTURE:
Although Si Thu wanted to return to school, his fused elbows led him to think that because he would have difficulty writing he should not attend. Si Thu should have commenced grade 8 this year. He and his mother want him to get better so that he can go back to school.
Si Thu one day dreams of becoming a driver and owning his own car so he can transport his fellow villagers in his town for a fare.
SI THU’S TREATMENT COMPLETED:
In late 2011, Si Thu went to Chiang Mai with his mother to undergo treatment at McKean Rehabilitation Center. Here’s a video of Si Thu’s journey…