Karma Dema was diagnosed with nasal cavity cancer a decade ago. Unable to find suitable treatment in Bhutan, she sought medical care in India, where the treatment resulted in changes to the shape of her nose.
The 23-year-old Bhutanese woman is now planning to return home after a successful operation on her nose at the Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery in Dhaka.
Dema shared the story of her recovery at a press conference organised by the health ministry at the burn institute on Saturday afternoon.
Pradeep Chandra Das, an associate professor at the institute who headed Dema's medical team, said Dema received chemotherapy and radiotherapy at Tata Memorial Hospital in India, but experienced complications resulting in decay in her nasal cavity and an abnormal nose shape.
Despite undergoing two corrective surgeries at the same hospital, her appearance remained altered, said the doctor.
Then she returned to Bhutan before eventually coming to Bangladesh. Here, doctors formed three medical teams to address the damage to her nose.
At the press conference, Dema expressed her gratitude for her improved health and thanked the Bangladeshi government.
"Before the surgery, I was deeply concerned about my condition, but now I feel much better. The treatment I received here was exceptional, and I feel healthy again. I am immensely grateful to the Bangladesh government for their unwavering support."
HOW DEMA CAME TO BANGLADESH
During the celebration of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's birth centenary in September 2023, Bangladesh and Bhutan organised a plastic surgery camp in Thimpu, led by a team of Bangladeshi doctors. The 14-member medical team was headed by the current health minister, Samanta Lal Sen, who was the chief coordinator of the burn institutes.
Doctor Das, who supervised Dema's surgery, said that 16 complex surgeries were performed during the week-long camp. Dema also sought treatment for her nose there.
Das highlighted the legal challenges in bringing foreign nationals to national institutions for treatment. Later, both governments agreed to admit Dema to the national burn institute, where she was hospitalised on Dec 14.
On Jan 9, Dema underwent surgery where three teams of doctors from the burn institute collaborated for approximately nine hours to reconstruct her nose using cartilage from her body and skin from her hand.
Health Minister Dr Sen mentioned that Dema would need further surgery.
"We will discharge her now, and she will return later for additional procedures to enhance the appearance of her nose."