CAMBODIA ACID VIOLENCE HEALTHCARE INITIATIVE
VIRTUE FOUNDATION DEPLOYS MEDICAL TEAM TO TREAT AND EXPOSE HARSH REALITY OF ACID VIOLENCE
Acid violence has increasingly become a grave problem in Cambodia, where readily available and inexpensive car battery acid is frequently used as a weapon of choice for settling domestic disputes and jealous loversí quarrels, blindly destroying the lives and hopes of its victims in the blink of an eye.
Led by Dr. Ebby Elahi, an oculoplastic and reconstructive surgeon, Virtue Foundation deployed a team of physicians to Phnom Penh, Cambodia in November 2004 to teach and perform plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Rose Charities Clinic, where many of the patients bear the gut-wrenching scars of callous acid attacks.
Deeply moved by the plight of a young Cambodian mother by the name of Yem and her infant daughter Sophan, who were both burned and disfigured by an acid attack that occurred while the baby was breastfeeding, Dr. Elahi arranged through the Virtue Foundation for mother and baby to travel to the United States in an attempt to prevent their blindness and to alleviate their deformities at the Mount Sinai Medical Center.
The entire cost of the patientsí treatment was donated by the Mount Sinai Medical Center and a team of highly specialized volunteer surgeons, including Dr. Ebby Elahi, Dr. Lester Silver, Dr. Penny Asbell, Dr. Michael Shohet, and Dr. Steven Rosenberg. Multiple surgical procedures on mother and child were followed by three months of intensive rehabilitation and follow-up care.
Virtue Foundation also arranged for Yem and Sophan to personally meet Cindi Broaddus, sister-in-law of talk show host Dr. Phil and the author of A Random Act, the inspiring story of her personal experience as a victim of acid violence in the United States.
Stolen Faces, a documentary narrated by Liev Schreiber that chronicles the medical teamís activities in Cambodia and the treatment of Yem and Sophan here in the United States, premiered at the United Nations High-Level Segment of ECOSOC on June 29th, 2005. The documentary was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Lisa Ling on the issues raised in the film.
In January 2006, Dr. Elahi returned to Cambodia with a small team for another round of treatment to acid attack victims and patients in need of critical surgical care. During his visit, Dr. Elahi was heartened to once again see and provide follow-up care to both Yem and Sophan, whose surgeries in the U.S. last year had turned out to be highly successful, with the baby's vision now fully restored. Virtue Foundation hopes to deploy additional teams of physicians to Cambodia to continue the vital tasks of raising awareness of acid violence and training local physicians in surgical and reconstructive procedures.
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