6 DEC 2008 The burned children of Iraq
Today brings another burned child. After the invasion, there was a decrease in the availability of electricity throughout Iraq. Most households have a generator in the home or have access to one. Of course the supply of fuel for those generators is also unreliable. There are often long lines for fuel purchase, and most of the time gasoline or alternate fuel for generators has to be purchased on the black market by illegal resellers. The child I treated today is a four-year-old boy. He was curious about the family's generator, and opened the cap of the fuel tank. There was a flash as the benzene fumes ignited. He was burned over his face, hand, and one of his legs.
He spent the night at one of the FOB's. As his face began to swell and they were worried that he would have trouble breathing, they decided to send the child to us. He was in surprisingly good condition. His eyes were swollen shut and his eyelashes had been burned off. His lips were burned and had crusted blood mixed with saliva clinging in a goo around them, but he could still speak. He called out for his father, who stood by him and gave us the details of the injury. His burns were slick with a thin coating of yellow green protein that had leaked out of the injured tissue. We intubated him and took him to the operating room.
With the help of the techs, I scrubbed all of his burns until the infected material had been removed and the healthy tissue beneath oozed blood. We coated his burns with antibacterial cream and returned him to the intensive care unit. I have high hopes that his burns will heal fast without too much scarring. They do not seemed to have killed the full thickness of the skin. Since he hasn't had too much damage done to his lungs internally, I'm hoping that he will be breathing without the help of a machine soon. He will still need nutrition through a tube because he won't eat much with his lips being as painfully swollen as they are.
It would seem that our little hospital is the pediatric burn center for Iraq. I do wish that people would take more care to prevent injuries like these. It will be safer for kids when people don't have to produce their own electricity. Also it will be helpful to have an Iraqi hospital that can handle the care of these burns. I guess a lot of progress has been hampered by the lack of security. What a mess.