Aung (acid burn)
Aung is a 34 year-old man who suffered severe burns all over his body during an acid attack. He received treatment in Burma immediately after the attack, but when he could no longer afford treatment, he came to the Mae Tao Clinic in Thailand. Aung only attended school through the third grade and currently earns about 10,000 kyat (US$10) per month working as a security guard at the market at night and 2, 000 kyat loading and unloading trucks during the day. His wife stays at home taking care of their three daughters and looking after the house. Their two oldest daughters are in school, but their youngest daughter is only a year old and is still at home. Before the accident, Aung said that his income from the two jobs covered basic expenses, but was not always enough to make ends meet. Sometimes they had to ask their parents for additional financial support.
In October 2012, Aung was riding on a motorbike with his boss and someone tried to throw acid at his boss and hit him instead. He suffered severe burns over much of his body including his face, arms, chest, and much of his right leg. His left eye was also hurt during the accident and he cannot see at all out of his left eye. He is still able to see out of his right eye, but he and his wife are worried about the possibility that he may lose eyesight in his right eye as well. He has also been running a fever each night. He is able to move his arms and legs a little; staff at Mae Tao encouraged him to try to keep moving his arms and legs in order to limit the extent to which contractures form and ultimately limit his mobility.
After the accident, Aung did not go directly to the hospital. He and his boss went to the police first in order to report the attack. Aung says he has no idea who might have tried to attack his boss or the reason why. However, his boss said that he knew the person who had tried to attack him and told the police about it. Later, the person that committed the attack was found and arrested.
TREATMENT IN BURMA
After spending two hours at the police station, they went to the hospital. However, on the way to the hospital, Aung lost consciousness. The hospital staff put cold water on his burns, gave him an IV, dressed his wounds, and admitted him. He stayed in the hospital for six days. He also received a blood transfusion during his stay. In total, the hospital stay cost 500,000 kyat. After one week in the hospital, he returned home where he stayed for the next two weeks. He returned to the hospital for two follow-up appointments which included eye check-ups, burn care, and medication. However, each follow-up appointment cost them 500,000 kyat (US$500). Doctors in Burma suggested that he be re-admitted for further treatment, but Aung and his wife never asked for details about what the treatment would include or how much it would cost. They knew they could not afford additional hospitalizations, so they did not pursue it. Instead, they asked the doctors to give them medicine to use at home. They also tried some traditional medicines including coconut oil and wrapping the burns with leaves. When a neighbor told them about Mae Tao Clinic, they decided to travel to Mae Sot (on the Thai-Burma border) for further treatment.
When asked whether things have improved in Burma with the recent political changes, they said there have been some changes, but they have been largely superficial. For example, some roads have been paved and primary school in their village is now free. However, food, healthcare, and transportation are still very expensive. Further, access to healthcare continues to be limited. For example, when they went to the hospital, doctors did not provide Aung with the medication needed to treat his burns. Instead, they told him to go out to the local pharmacy to buy the medicine himself.
Aung and his wife came to Mae Tao with his wife’s mother and their baby daughter. Transportation to Mae Tao cost 30,000 kyat (US$30) and took four hours. They could not take public transportation because it was too uncomfortable for Aung to travel on a crowded bus; instead they hired a car which was somewhat more expensive.
AUNG’S CURRENT CONDITION
When asked how he is feeling currently, Aung said he is still in some pain, particularly when he tries to sleep at night. There is also tension around the burned areas, but he is able to breathe okay. He is also generally able to eat and sleep without any problem. He is not currently taking any medicine for pain. The skin around many of the burned areas is swollen and somewhat numb.
Aung says he is very worried and stressed about the financial problems his health care will create for his family and also worries about the fact that as a result of his accident, he is unable to work and to provide for his family. His wife says she has many conflicted feelings about Aung’s condition. She is very worried about his well being, whether he will get better, and whether he will regain his eyesight in his damaged eye. She is also worried about her ability to both care for him and their three daughters as well as the financial stress his health care costs will cause the family. She also doesn’t know how the family will be able to support themselves as long as he is unable to work and is concerned about whether or not he will be able to work again.
Aung travelled to Chiang Mai with the BCMF patient van on Thursday 1 November 2012.