New Delhi : Twelve days after her wedding in 2006, Pragya Singh had acid thrown at her by a distant relative while she was traveling to Delhi in a train. The man was a rejected suitor, ten years her senior. He was caught by the police and sent to prison for four years.
But Pragya’s life changed forever. The incident had a traumatic effect on her. She had to undergo nine plastic surgeries and medical treatment for two years. However, that didn’t stop her from helping other acid attack victims.
In 2013, Pragya started Atijeevan Foundation in Bengaluru, an organisation exclusively for acid attack victims. Atijeevan helps acid attack survivors become economically independent and also provides free scar treatment to any acid attack victim who approaches them for help. The Foundation works with various hospitals in different cities around the country for this purpose.
One of the main aims of the organisation is to create awareness about the importance of skin donation and skin banking.
Skin banking is a facility where skin is collected from eligible deceased donors and processed as per international protocols. Skin can be stored in the skin bank for up to five years. This stored skin can be used for patients who have deep, chemical, electrical and radiation burns.
Atijeevan Foundation works closely with Dr Sunil Keshwani from the National Burns Center to help acid burn patients. National Burns Center is a Mumbai based research center that has a fully equipped skin bank.
“Initially, when we started this awareness drive, many doctors had no idea about skin banking. Some of them even termed it useless. They tried to stop us from spreading awareness,” says Pragya.
“Using donated skin, doctors can help heal the wounds of acid burn patients quickly. In the majority of cases, if the person is burnt more than 50%, the doctor will declare that the patient will not survive. If people are aware of this facility, a lot of lives can be saved,” she adds.
Unfortunately, there are very few skin donors in India. Many people are not aware that this procedure is available and it can save lives, according to Pragya.
“Skin donation is similar to eye donation. The skin bank team will come to the house of the deceased donor and harvest the skin with special equipment called Dermatome. The procedure takes only 15 minutes. So I urge people to come forward and help us with this cause,” she concludes.