Page last updated at 00:34 GMT, Wednesday, 29 June 2005 01:34 UK

Burns girl 'able to blink again'

Sundeep Hunhan with surgeon Raman Malhotra
Sundeep's bandages were removed on Monday

A Kenyan woman who experienced horrific injuries in an acid attack is now able to open and close her eyes, after operations by top UK surgeons.

Sundeep Hunjan, 23, from Nairobi suffered extensive scarring on her face and neck after the attack in February, and only had 4mm of eyelid left.

Doctors at the McIndoe Surgical Centre in East Grinstead, West Sussex used skin grafts to build an eyelid.

When bandages were removed on Monday, Sundeep was able to blink again.

She can now open and close her eyelids, but only a little bit
Jit Panesar, Sundeep's uncle

She is now only able to open and close her eyes a little.

But doctors say this will improve as she recovers from the operation.

Sundeep was the victim of the unprovoked and unexpected attack as she was driving home with her father.

Her sight was protected because she has Bell's phenomenon, a tendency to roll the eyeball upwards as she tries to close her eyelids, which has helped protect her eyes by keeping them moist.

But she needed operations to rebuild her eyelids to protect her sight in the long term.

'She's very tired'

In her first operation, doctors used a skin graft to replace the lower eyelids, and to treat the heavy scarring on her neck.

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

In a second operation, a second skin graft was used to replace her upper eyelid.

Sundeep has also had a third operation on her neck, because her first skin-graft did not take completely.

Raman Malhotra, a consultant ophthalmic and oculoplastic surgeon at the McIndoe Centre, who carried out the operations on Sundeep's eyes, said: "She's doing really well.

"After three operations in two weeks, she's really weary and tired, and probably a bit fed up.

"But she can now close her eyes.

"She's got about 25% of what she should have. People should have about an inch of eyelid between their lashes and their eyebrows.

"Before the operations, she had about 4mm."

Mr Malhotra, who also works at the Queen Victoria NHS Foundation Trust, said the grafts, taken from Sundeep's leg and groin, did not yet match her badly scarred face.

But he said he hoped further skin grafts, plus time, would mean that there would be less difference between the skin colours.

Family life

He said Sundeep would need further surgery, including treatment for scalp damage which means she has no hair in some places, but the team were trying not to ask her to cope with too much.

"The conflict we have is trying to get as much done in the time she is in the UK for, and trying to leave time for her to take it easy, and so not do too much."

At the time of the attack, she was looking forward to her wedding, planned for April this year.

Her fiancé and most of her family are keeping in touch with her progress from Kenya.

Sundeep is set to leave hospital on Wednesday and will stay with family in Bristol until she needs to return to hospital for treatment.

Her uncle, Jit Panesar, who brought her from Kenya for treatment, told the BBC News website: "She's doing really well.

"She can now open and close her eyelids, but only a little bit. It's going to be a few months before they are normal.

"When she comes home, she will come back to family life again and be able to speak to friends and family in Kenya."

The total cost of Sundeep's treatment is likely to be around £100,000. Her family need to raise around £50,000 from community events.

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.

No-scar skin graft promise
27 Nov 02 |  Health

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