TBI BLOGS: How Acid Attack Survivor Rekha Is Rebuilding Her Life after 6 Painful Surgeries

Rekha, an acid attack victim, has undergone six surgeries and is slowly rebuilding her life. She wants to get better soon and help other survivors.

Rekha, an acid attack victim, has undergone six surgeries. She wants to get better soon and help other survivors. 

Rekha had moved to Bengaluru from her village in Haveri, Karnataka, to work in a garment factory in order to support herself and her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter. She stayed with a colleague and got into a relationship with her colleague’s brother.

“I remember that morning as if it were yesterday. He would often surprise me and wake me up by sprinkling drops of water on me. But I realised that this time, it wasn’t water,” she says.

In the early hours of October 2, 2013, Rekha’s partner poured concentrated acid on her head, when she was still in bed at their home in Electronic City. Shocked by the burning sensation, she got up and started running down the stairs. The acid quickly burnt her scalp, ears, parts of her face, and her hands.

“I shouted for help but no one came to help me. Perhaps they were stunned by the smoke emanating from my body. I ran to my brother who worked as a watchman nearby and told him that something bad had happened to me. It was he who took me to hospital,” she says.

At the government hospital in Bengaluru, where she was first admitted, Rekha was given first aid and then she was discharged after a few days. She went back to her village in Haveri and got admitted at the district hospital there. Meanwhile, the police had arrested Rekha’s taxi-driver partner, based on her statement at the hospital. Her partner’s family was trying to get him out on bail.

“Even at the district hospital, the doctors just dressed my wounds and no surgery was performed. Without money, I could not get admission in a private hospital, so they sent me back to the government hospital in Bengaluru. My partner’s family took me to a lawyer. They told me to change my statement and say that I poured acid on myself. They said they will help me get treatment at a good hospital, if I do so. But the lawyer drove them out of his office, and this gave me strength to fight back,” she says.

Rekha is happy that the courts have denied bail to her attacker.

Rekha before and soon after the acid attack
Rekha before and soon after the acid attack

In April 2014 – six months after the attack – Rekha was admitted to a private hospital in Bengaluru, with the help of Make Love Not Scars (MLNS), an NGO which works for acid attack victims. Doctors at the private hospital first operated on her eyes to save them from infection and reconstructed her eyelids. Thankfully, Rekha can see from both her eyes now, although her vision in the right eye is blurred. It took six surgeries for the doctors to release the contractures on Rekha’s hands and neck and create an opening where her nose was, so that she could breathe easily.

“In the last two years, I have had six painful surgeries and I am thankful that I can now move my hands, turn my head and breathe through my nose. Every surgery is painful as the doctors take normal skin from my legs or hands. But with each surgery, I get new hope of getting back to normal again,” she says.

The doctors have also custom-made a plastic nose for Rekha and given her a pair of spectacles that she can wear.

Rekha wearing her custom-made plastic nose attached to a pair of spectacles
Rekha wearing her custom-made plastic nose attached to a pair of spectacles

While Rekha was undergoing surgeries at the private hospital, her four-year-old daughter was with her sister in Haveri. But Rekha’s sister was not able to take care of her daughter for long, and she has now been admitted to a residential school with help from MLNS.

Rekha dreams of a bright future for her child and hopes that she will be able to get a good education. Watch this video recording of Rekha’s hopes for the future.

Between her surgeries, Rekha likes to read and write poems in Kannada. She is also inspired by acid attack survivor Haseena Hussain, whom she speaks to regularly. Like Haseena, Rekha wants others to know about her life. She hopes to get better soon and help other survivors of violence.

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