Nassau Co. doctors aid burn victims in Afghanistan

March 1, 2012 2:53:03 PM PST
Casualties from the war in Afghanistan are frequently in the news, but we hear little about other casualties, like local people who suffer burns and disfigurements from explosions and car bombs.

Now, a local group is on its way to offer them help.

Afghanistan is a country with few resources.

For many, an injury or a burn means a lifelong disability.

But three Long Island doctors have been recruited by the not for profit organization, Mission Restore, to give aid and to start a connection that can offer help and most importantly, teaching and healing.

The instruments these doctors and nurses are preparing are for surgery and for skin transplant procedures.

They're not for use today; they're being checked and packed for a trip across the ocean next week.

They're going to a tiny hospital on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, called the Cure Hospital, where there will be a ready list of patients waiting for their help.

I expect to see very extensive injuries. I expect to see burn injuries, burn injuries that have gone on to heal inappropriately," said Dr. Louis Riima, Assistant Director, Nassau County Burn Unit.

As a plastic surgeon, Dr. Riima has plenty of experience restoring and replacing burned skin.

Dr. Riima's last medical mission was to India.

A photo he showed of an Indian child, he says, is typical of facial burns he encounters; old burns now pulling down eyes and mouth.

"I expect this to be very common and much worse," Dr. Riima said.

Help will also come from Dr. Kaveh Alizadeh, a colleague already on his way to Kabul.

Dr. Joshua Zukerman is the 3D surgeon, he's specializes in hand surgery, also a common place for burns.

"There's a tremendous need. The numbers speak for themselves. Afghanistan is a nation with 29 million people and there are only two plastic surgeons who are themselves self trained," Dr. Zuckerman said.

Training is the second part of the mission.

These doctors hope to teach new techniques to the self-trained doctors now there. How much do they think they can help?

"We can help them tremendously, tremendously, in a life altering fashion," Dr. Rina said.

The Nassau County Burn Unit is at the Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow.

Mission Restore hopes to build a bridge between here and Afghanistan with continuing contact with the doctors there.

The date of departure is the middle of next week, but of course, they're keeping a close eye of changing events which might affect that date.

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