Dubai-based doctor brings hope to Indian villagers

A Dubai surgeon will provide free operations for children with cleft lips and palettes, and acid-burn victims.

Dubai plastic surgeon Dr Sanjay Parashar in his Dubai office. He will fly to India next month to perform operations for free.  Pawan Singh / The National
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DUBAI // A team led by a Dubai plastic surgeon will perform free operations on children with cleft lips and acid burn victims in Indian villages next month.

Up 45 operations will be done over two days in January by five doctors in villages near Nagpur, central India.

Dr Sanjay Parashar, who has been referred to as a medical Robin Hood, directs his earnings from cosmetic surgery, such as tummy tucks, liposuction and hair transplants, to treat needy villagers.

“I think it’s become a passion,” said Dr Parashar, 47, who has been doing this free work since 2008. “But I will always do reconstructive surgery for free because patients in India cannot afford it. It’s a good balance.

“Initially we didn’t have funds so we went around for money, but once things settled down and I realised we could cover it, things are much easier to accomplish.

“Since a major portion of our work in Dubai is cosmetic surgery, it’s our way of gathering resources to perform reconstructive surgery in India.”

Along with two plastic surgeons in Nagpur, a doctor from Australia and another specialist from Dubai, Dr Parashar conducts major operations once a year.

The patients are identified in primary health centres and the doctors can travel up to 100 kilometres to remote villages.

Most villagers just live with their cleft lips because it can involve four operations, depending on the severity.

“They are left with a stigma because it affects their speech and eating,” Dr Parashar said.

“For a parent it is traumatising. It affects them psychologically, particularly if a child is born in a primary healthcare facility where people may not be aware of the condition.”

In the free camps scheduled next year, the team will operate on a 30-year-old housewife whose face and neck were disfigured in an acid attack two years ago.

“First we have to improve functionality since she is not able to open her mouth properly,” said Dr Parashar. “We will release her mouth to allow her to eat and then we will release her neck that is stuck to the chin.

“Basically our first surgery will give her some suppleness to help her move her jaws to eat and drink. She has already had emergency surgeries where they removed skin from her body to heal primary wounds on her face.”

Acid attacks usually occur when a woman spurns sexual advances, rejects a marriage proposal or because of family disputes, Indian charity groups say.

There are no official statistics but more than 100 acid attacks occur every year, the Acid Survivors Foundation India says.

Similar assaults take place in other South Asian countries and in China, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Iran.

Post-burn reconstruction needs more than 10 operations.

The doctors have also corrected craniosynostosis in children, where two or more of the five skull plates fuse prematurely. This restricts growth of the brain and causes facial and skull deformities.

Some patients say they would have lost their livelihood without the doctors’ intervention.

“I was in such pain and very scared but Dr Parashar fixed my arm,” said Chamrulal, a farm worker from Hirri village, who had a 12-hour operation a couple of years ago to reattach his hand that was severed at the wrist when sawing wood.

“Now I can lift 5 to 7-kilogram weights, I can do heavy work. People look at my hand and cannot make out it was once cut.”