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Last Updated: Friday, 30 September 2005, 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK
'My life changed in a second'
By Caroline Ryan
BBC News health reporter

Just a few days ago, Sundeep Hunjan was reunited with her fiancé Amritpal Singh Rupra.

Sundeep Hunjan with fiancé Amritpal Singh Rupra.
Sundeep was delighted to see her fiancé Amritpal again

They had been separated for four months - since Sundeep was brought to Britain from Kenya for treatment of injuries she sustained in an horrific acid attack.

Sundeep's family arranged for Amritpal to come to the UK as a surprise to boost her recovery.

She had been driving home from her job as a logistics officer for Toyota East Africa in Nairobi with her father when the attack took place one day in February this year.

Sundeep, 23, said: "It was a Monday. It was a very hot day and we were driving home with the windows open.

"We were in traffic, and just as we started moving, I felt something hot pour over me.

"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 that was it'

"I felt like that was it for me. And I was really worried about my eyes, because I couldn't see."

Sundeep Hunjan - copyright Times newspaper/Jack Hill
Sundeep was looking forward to her wedding before the attack

There are no ambulances in Kenya.

Sundeep and her father had to flag down a passing motorist to take them to the nearest hospital, where they had to pay a deposit before they could be treated.

Amritpal, 24, had also been driving home from work, and came upon the scene of the accident a few minutes after Sundeep and her father had gone to hospital.

Recognising the car, and realising what had happened, he rushed to be with Sundeep at the hospital.

"When I got there, and saw Sundeep, it was scary. But I had to be strong because if I had broken down, then she wouldn't be strong."

The acid had poured on to Sundeep's head and down her face onto her body.

Her eyelids were so badly burnt she only had four millimetres of eyelid left, so she could not blink. She also suffered third degrees burns on her torso.

Lying in hospital, she says she could not believe what had happened.

"Something that happens in a split second changes your life, and it's something I'll regret for the whole of my life," she said.

"You just wonder why."

Hair restoration

Amritpal said: "It was very tough while she was in hospital. I was used to being with her every waking hour, every day.

Sundeep Hunjan with surgeon Raman Malhotra
You just wonder why
Sundeep Hunjan
"It felt like there was something missing."

Her uncle Jit Panesar, who lives in Britain went out to see Sundeep.

He said: "It was a real shock. Her family had told me she was OK. But I have some medical connections, and I knew she was really bad."

He made arrangements for Sundeep to be brought back to Britain for treatment at the McIndoe Surgical Centre in East Grinstead, West Sussex.

So far, surgeons have been able to restore her eyelids and movement in her neck.

In the latest operation, a silicon balloon was inserted under Sundeep's hair-bearing scalp to stretch it so it can cover the 25% of scalp where hair was burnt off.

Sundeep is due to have surgery on the burns on her face next year.

Once the course of treatment is over, which could take at least another year, Sundeep and Amritpal can think again about planning their wedding - which should have taken place in April this year.

Amritpal said: "We will wait until Sundeep has finished her treatment, and then we will think about it."

So far, around £45,000 has been raised to pay for her treatment, which is expected to cost around £100,000.

The McIndoe Burns Support Group is collecting money to help Sundeep. The telephone helpline for credit and debit card payments is 0870 0818000.

Sundeep's family are offering a reward of 150,000 Kenyan Shillings, just under £1,100, for anyone with information leading to the conviction of her attackers.

Anyone who can help should contact: Fred Okeyo, Otieno Okeyo & Co Advocates, Old Mutual Building, 4th Floor, Kimathi Street, Nairobi, Kenya, telephone +254 2 344120.


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