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“We in the developed world have no consciousness of how dangerous life can be in the developing world.”
- Brecken Chinn Swartz, HandReach
A trauma is anything that changes the body suddenly and forever, like an amputation or a severe burn. Because fires are used to heat homes and industrial safety practices may be lax, kids in developing countries suffer some of the worst, most frequent traumas.
Much of the time, these kids can get the emergency surgery to survive. But without ongoing rehabilitation, deep burns can become inflexible appendages. Without properly and constantly fit prostheses, amputations can make mobility out of the question.
“These kids aren’t sick. They’re not cognitively delayed,” says Founder Breacken Chinn Swartz. “They’re perfectly normal people, they just had an injury happen.”
HandReach is an organization that brings hospitals the best practices in burn and amputation recovery, and right now they’re building a worldwide model by starting in China. (Not what most of us would call a developing country, but a perfect place to begin.)
“China alone has 5 million unproperly-treated trauma survivors each year,” says Swartz. “Every burn treatment has to be matched to the person. We need to be able to see people, see the tissue damage, how it moves, etc.”
HandReach wants to spread the understanding that it’s not just about the surgery; it’s about the care around and after surgery. And it’s vital that hospitals are designed with that in mind, from the basic layout, to the stages of care, to implementing telecommunicating for consultations worldwide.
So is there any good news? Is there any hope? Definitely.
“Kids are pretty robust from ages 5-18,” says Swartz. “That’s the age range they can overcome a really serious injury and still have a active life.”