Karma Dema, a 23-year-old Bhutanese girl, underwent reconfiguration surgery in Bangladesh for structural damages caused by the side effects of receiving radiation treatment for her cancer of the nasal cavity at Tata Memorial Hospital in India.
Karma previously had two operations at the Indian Hospital, but the doctors were unable to fix her broken nose. She then came to Bangladesh for treatment, making history as the first international patient to travel there on a medical visa.
Thankfully, the result was favourable. She had a successful nose restoration procedure, and now she’s ready to go back home.
Karma Dema had a nine-hour nose reconstruction procedure carried out by three teams of plastic surgeons at the Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery. As the institute’s chief coordinator at the time, Health Minister Dr. Samanta Lal Sen oversaw the entire process.
The physicians claim that Karma’s nasal anatomy has greatly improved. In three to six months, she is scheduled to have another small operation.
Currently at the burn institute, she is undergoing therapy in a cabin. On December 14, she travelled to Bangladesh for medical care.
Karma Dema has two brothers and is the lone daughter in her family. Her older brother works in a restaurant, and her father is a soldier in Bhutan. Many years ago, a cancer diagnosis was made for her. But Karma’s medical bills proved to be too much for the family to handle, so they turned to the Bhutanese government for help.
Support for Karma’s treatment came from the governments of Bangladesh and Bhutan. She had previously received therapy in India with funding from the Indian and Bhutanese governments.
Karma Phuntho, Karma’s elder brother, told a news portal, “My sister’s condition has improved significantly. The treatment is being conducted through cooperation between the governments of Bhutan and Bangladesh, and we are not incurring any expenses.”
He further said, “We are extremely pleased with the treatment and services provided by Bangladesh. Before this, she underwent treatment in India for one and a half years starting in 2020.”
Dr Hasib Rahman, associate professor at the Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery and leader of one of the three surgical teams, said similar nose reconstruction surgeries were performed in Bangladesh earlier. However, Karma’s case holds significance due to her status as a foreign patient.
Under the direction of Dr Samanta Lal Sen, a group of 14 plastic surgery specialists set out for Bhutan on September 25, 2023. The governments of both nations organized a seven-day plastic surgery camp in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, in honour of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s centennial. Karma Dema’s family brought her for nose reconstruction surgery at this time.
Dr Hasib Rahman said, “There is no plastic surgery department in Bhutan. So we invited her to come to Bangladesh. Later, she and one of her brothers came to Bangladesh for treatment.”
Health Minister Dr Samanta Lal Sen said, “We often hear of Bangladeshi patients seeking treatment abroad. However, this Bhutanese patient is the first to come to Bangladesh for treatment on a medical visa. Our doctors have dedicatedly worked to restore her health, and we anticipate welcoming more foreign patients in the future.”
And further added, “Recently, the Nepalese ambassador approached me, and I extended the same offer to them. We are prepared to organise a medical camp in Nepal similar to what we did in Bhutan. If there are critical patients there, they can send them to us.”
On Saturday, 10 February, a press conference was held during which more details about Karma Dema’s treatment were shared by The health minister.
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