Ei Ei Htoo (clubbed feet)
Ei Ei was born in Karen State, Burma. She has congenital disabilities including a small meningocele on her lower back which has caused nerve damage that had resulted in her feet being clubbed. On her right hand, she has two missing finger and one deformed, her thumb and little finger are present.
Ei Ei has a large family with five siblings. Her family crossed the border into Thailand in 2010 as there was conflict in their area. The UN is yet to assess their refugee claim though they are registered with refugee camp officials so that the family receives food rations and services.
Ei Ei’s parents manage to make a small amount of money working in the camp – her mother sells betel nut and her father gives guitar lessons. But this could never cover the cost of treatment for Ei Ei. To seek treatment in Mae Sot, Ei Ei left the camp without official permission to do so and as such she was very scared when travelling. At the time, she was stopped by police, but a kind elderly woman stood up for Ei Ei stating that she was obviously on her way to Mae Tao Clinic to seek treatment and that should be allowed to pass unhindered – which she was.
Ei Ei has always felt greatly embarrassed by her condition. Her family is very protective as well, and they walk her to school each day as she needs assistance to walk. Her condition is disguised as much as it can be, her longyi (skirt) is very long to hide her feet and she folds her hands together to look like all her fingers are present.
TREATMENT – A LONG JOURNEY…
Ei Ei went to Chiang Mai three times for treatment. The first time was for surgery. After she was admitted to the hospital, she had physiotherapy on her legs for one week. Then, three days before her surgery was scheduled her physiotherapy stopped and she had he legs bandaged up by the staff. Her first operation was on her left leg. She went for surgery at 1.30pm and was unconscious for seven hours, returning to her room at 8.30pm. When she woke up she had a cast on her leg. The doctor gave her injections for four days after the surgery and she took medicine three times a day for two months for her wounds. Also, the doctors drained her wound periodically to remove excess bleeding.
However, one day, after Ei Ei’s surgery, complications ensued and Ei Ei started to bleed heavily with the wound becoming infected. The doctor removed her cast and Ei Ei says that she screamed a lot with the pain. Ei Ei says her leg wasn’t very straight after this surgery, but it had improved. Her doctors weren’t satisfied and told her she would need further surgery on the leg. Surgery was then scheduled for her right leg.
Between surgeries Ei Ei remained in hospital and her doctors did not allow her out of her bed. But she says that she was able to do handicrafts to alleviate the boredom. After the surgery on her right leg, it was almost straight and much improved. Ei Ei had to do more physiotherapy for her legs while in hospital. After this surgery she returned home with her mother.
EI EI RETURNS HOME TO RECOVER… WITH FURTHER COMPLICATIONS
Ei Ei was given medication for the pain and the itching and doctors also examined her dressing before she left the hospital. After returning to the refugee camp, Ei EI got worms in the cast and around the dressing because of the conditions in the camp. She felt pain and fluid leaking from her wound which had turned in to an abscess. She then started to get small spots all over her body and was very itchy. She reported her condition to BCMF staff in Mae Sot and they told her to go see the doctors in the camp. The camp hospital admitted her for two nights and the doctor gave her medication for her pain and some antibiotics. However, they did not want to remove her cast as it had been done in Chiang Mai and they did not want to take responsibility if anything went wrong. They sent her home after two nights and she decided to come to the Mae Tao Clinic (MTC). BCMF arranged for her to go back to Chiang Mai in the first week of November. She was admitted immediately and the doctor once again removed her cast and dressing. There were many worms in the wound and the doctor cleaned them out and put medication on the wound. After one week the wound had healed and the worms were gone. The doctors redid her cast and dressing and gave her medication to take home with her for three months.
Then in February, 2013, again in the camp, her wound became seriously infected with worms. Ei Ei could see the pus leaking from her wound and she says she was shocked. She immediately returned to MTC and was sent to Chiang Mai the next day. In the hospital she was separated from other patients as doctors were worried about the nature and severity of the infection. Each morning the doctor came and cleaned out her wounds of any worms and applied cream.
ONE FOOT AFTER THE OTHER…
By March, Ei Ei says that gradually she felt better and one week before her next scheduled surgery she had healed. She had surgery on her left leg, with the right leg remaining in the cast and bandage. Again, she had her wound drained after the surgery and the doctor gave her special shoes to wear. She started to walk for the first time on March 7th, 2013 and had physiotherapy until March 12th. She returned to Mae Sot on March 15th and BCMF staff were delighted to see her walking! See video of Ei Ei walking
Ei Ei says that when she walks she can feel her legs are almost straight, she says they are still a little painful and numb after the surgery. The doctor told her she needs to only walk for 20 minutes at a time and then takes some rest and she must stop walking if she feels any pain. All her wounds are now healed and worm-free.
Looking towards the future
Ei Ei says that staying in Chiang Mai improved her confidence and motivation. She saw many other patients who were worse off than her and she understood that she doesn’t need to give up on herself and life, that she needs to be confident and try harder to be educated. She also says that one other BCMF patient at the hospital, Aung, who has severe burns from an acid attack, inspired her very much and she now wants to help those people who are less fortunate than her in life.
Her mother says she is so happy now that Ei Ei can walk and has recovered well from her surgery. She can now walk alone and her mother does not need to support her daughter so much. Ei Ei’s whole family is thrilled at her recovery. Her mother also says that it will help the family as she can now work more as Ei Ei Htoo can be more self-sufficient. Her mother says that her daughter can now concentrate on her studies and be well educated. She says that she wants to help her daughter do what she wants to in life.
Ei Ei wants to learn Thai and English. She would like to work as translator and volunteer to help other patients like her. She would also like to learn how to use a computer. Ei Ei is also very musical and can play guitar and bass guitar. She can play a little piano and would like to learn more, as well as keyboard and practice her singing
Ei Ei would like to say thank you so much to the donors who supported her treatment. She says that without it she could never have been treated. She is almost recovered now and is so grateful to all who helped her. Before she could not go many places, and now she is more confident and has great determination to do many things such as complete her education, help other people and make her dreams come true.
She says that every night she thinks of and prays for the donors who helped her and hopes that BCMF is around for many more years to help other patients. Again she says thank you so much to all the donors.