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Below is a writeup by my father in a Rotary club magazine about a patient he treated. It is quite well written so I will shut up and allow you to read it yourselves.

Yasin’s story facing the world without a face

It is about 5 years since Yasin fluttered into our lives like a butterfly and made a lasting impression on all of us.

He was the elder of two brothers, living with their parents, in poverty. One morning after returning to his hut from his bath at the community tap ,Yasin headed for the bottle of coconut hair oil and poured some on his head. Terrifyingly his father had brought in some battery acid and kept it in the same corner and the little boy mistook the bottles. He suffered horrific burns of his face and scalp as the acid dipped down. Medical attention was not of the best, in keeping with their poverty. He did heal after a while , but was left with a horribly disfigured face.

Most crucially he had burns to both upper eyelids which had now scarred and left him unable to blink or close his eyes. To know how awful this – please try this experiment. Hold one upper eyelid fully open with your finger and walk, read or simply lie down under a fan. Try to do this for 5 minutes by the clock – I am sure you cannot bear the discomfort. Now imagine both eyes fixed open 24 hours a day , in or outdoors with no relief after 5 minutes. Steadily in this situation, the eye dries out , the cornea (clear central portion) goes opaque white and blindness follows .

Tragedy still haunted the two brothers who soon afterwards lost both parents and over time found themselves inmates of a Government run orphanage. For his eyes, he would be referred to the suitable hospitals, but lacking Plastic surgical facilities, he was only prescribed eyedrops and sent back. The inevitable drying up process had been initiated and he was getting early clouding in his left eye.

This is where fate intervened, It was Christmas time and a group of carol singers visited his orphanage to spread Yuletide cheer. They spotted his pitiable condition and sent a cry of help to the Rotary Club of Panaji MidTown, knowing the humanitarian work done by them. Dr Deep Bhandare from the club got me to see the boy.

Realising the urgency of the situation we decided that he needed admission to my hospital in Ponda and surgery as soon as possible. The bureaucratic obstacles to getting a child to a private hospital from a state orphanage were significant but were surmounted by the actively involved Rotarians.

And so this little sad looking but smiling waif came into our lives. His left eye was operated first as it was critical. Normally I would have sent him back and operated his other eye after a fortnight or so, but having learnt to be afraid of bureaucracy involved in readmission, pretended that he needed a longer hospital stay and operated on his other eye as well. He stayed with us for over 3 weeks and grabbed our hearts in the process.

He was polite, neat, well mannered, impishly cheerful and always wanted to help in little ways. My staff members vied with each other in feeding him and he came home with us for a meal. We decided to decline the financial payments offered by the Rotary Club of Panaji MidTown and have since then treated him free for the last five years.

Once blindness was averted ,the crisis was over but he needed a lot of surgical work to make his face ‘human’.Plastic surgery needs often repeated and sometimes staged procedures nad this arduous journey was embarked upon.

Yasin would come to the hospital in school holidays, always with enthusiasm and eagerness. He would leave with a smile on his face and never wince even once when removing stitches.

He has undergone over half a dozen surgeries to improve various parts of his face – better definition of upper and lower lips, to correct out turning of lower lip, to improve forehead, add definition to his nose and improve scars where possible.The extensive bald scalp had to be reduced to attempt a more natural hairline – he still needs more surgery. It must be remembered that scarring is permanent and cannot be erased, and that further surgery always adds new scars .

The Rotarians of the club have been enthusiastic in ferrying him to and fro , and organizing the necessary permits for absence. Aided by other socially minded persons notably Mrs Chico ,they have provided a nurturing hand to him and helped out tremendously with his education, particularly in convincing hardened school authorities in granting admission to someone, they feel, will scare other students.

Today Yasin is becoming a confident young lad doing well in studies and games. Speaking English and aspiring to a technical course and a productive employment , helped by his Rotarian mentors,

We recognize the generous help from the Rotarians of Panaji Midtown in Yasin’s transformation.

Both I and my wife Smita are however most grateful to Yasin for having come into our lives and touched us with his optimism. determination , and his quiet cheerfulness in facing this world when he had no face to speak of! We find ourselves enriched by getting to know him and spend time watching him grow as a human being.

Dr R P Usgaocar


Doctors spend about twice the average amount of time in education before they can start working, they lead busy professional lives, staying away from family and sacrificing their hobbies just because a patient turned up at the wrong time of the day. After all this, they very often face ingratitude from their patients and of late are even in the danger of facing legal action if things go wrong, through no fault of theirs. But just when we are about to ask the question “why would anyone want to be a doctor?” there will be a case like this and it will all be worth it.


Written by clueso

June 4, 2008 at 11:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Thanks for the story. Very touching that so many people helped out.

    I wonder though if there was more to Yasin’s misfortune than simply a mistake. I know that one uses about half a tea spoon or of coconut hair oil — especially if one is a small child. It is not as if one pours half a liter of oil on one’s head as if one was intent on bathing in it. In fact, one pours out a little bit of oil into one’s palm and then applies it to the hair.

    So I don’t understand how Yasin’s palm would not get burnt first, and so stop him from pouring so much acid on his head that it burns his eyelids.

    Basically, I don’t find the story that it was an honest mistake convincing at all. Do tell me that I am mistaken.

    Atanu Dey

    June 8, 2008 at 10:35 am

  2. @Atanu: Come to think of it, I don’t really know the details, but I have seen people who try to pour oil directly on their head from the bottle, occassionally leading to the trivial and sometimes hilarious consequence of the bottle cap falling off and drenching them in oil, so maybe Yasin was one of them.
    That said though, my parents have often come across cases, especially of women with bad burns who “got burnt by a kerosene stove explosion” as per the family members which was decidedly suspicious. It is a shady thing for sure, but my parents have stayed out of the legal aspects due to a lack of significant evidence and more importantly to continue the work they are good at unhindered.

    But the next time I speak to them I will ask them if they think there could be anything suspicious about the event. I too hope they reply in the negative


    June 8, 2008 at 10:33 pm

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