Reports of acid attacks in the mainstream media are worryingly on the rise. Used as a targeted weapon, acid attacks are a form of premeditated violence most often used against women and girls. The survivors face permanent disfigurement and social isolation due to such cruel assaults. The road to recovery is long and exhausting with many cases going unreported due to fears of revenge.
In 2005 after an unprovoked acid assault in Kenya which left Sundeep Hunjan unable to blink, she was brought to The McIndoe Centre for reconstructive treatment. Sundeep was driving home with her father when she felt something hot pour over her. In an interview with the BBC Sundeep said “I didn’t know what it was. I got out of the car, but I couldn’t see anything. Then my father told me it was acid. I felt like that was it for me”.
The acid poured down her head and onto her face and body leaving her with third degree burns. As there are no ambulances in Kenya, Sundeep and her father had to flag down a passing motorist. The hospital required a deposit before proceeding with life-saving treatment.
Sometime later a relative based in the UK brought Sundeep to The McIndoe Centre which is renowned for its specialist expertise in burns reconstruction. Her UK based surgeons remarked that it was one of the worst cases they had ever seen.
Internationally renowned Consultant Plastic and Burns Reconstructive Surgeon Baljit Dheansa performed numerous operations on Sundeep’s scarred face and neck to try and restore movement to allow her to eat, breathe and speak again. A silicon balloon was also inserted under her hair-bearing skin and was slowly injected with saline to expand it over several months. This allowed enough hair-bearing skin to cover the 25% that had been burnt off.
Luckily her sight was saved because she has Bell’s phenomenon, a condition which means the eyeballs roll upwards when you blink. Despite this, Sundeep still needed reconstructive surgery to her eyelids.
Award winning Consultant Ophthalmic and Oculoplastic Surgeon Raman Malhotra performed skin grafts to help her close her eyes again. Raman said: "I was shocked when I saw the pictures of her. She had been so severely injured. The first thing we needed to do was help her close her eyes. But this was just the start of the operations she will need."
In 2007 after two years of treatment Sundeep said: “I'm happy, so happy. There is so much to look forward to and now life will go on."