As 24-year-old Mop Ngieb sewed together pieces of fabric yesterday to create a custom-made pressure garment to treat the scars of acid attack victims, her mentor Australian nun Marie Doolan monitored her progress.
Originally from Takeo province, Mop Ngieb began working at the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity after suffering burns to her face, body, arms and legs after a petrol explosion last year.
Next week, she is set to become one of the first two people – along with colleague 31-year-old Yim Chheng Leang – certified in Cambodia to train people in designing and producing the garments, which help to reduce scarring in burn victims by moving fluid under the skin.
“I know about the pain of scars,” she said yesterday. Mop Ngieb was trained in how to sew the garments by 73-year-old Catholic nun Sister Marie Doolan.
Doolan, who is now on her third trip to Cambodia in order to help train the two women, believes that enabling them to make the medical dressings will help to ensure that future victims receive treatment.
“They hopefully will then be able to train other people because it’s so important,” Marie Doolan said. “They know exactly what to do.”
A former designer and dressmaker from Melbourne, Doolan has been making the pressure garments using her own method for the past 25 years. “I have a dysfunctional lymphatic system ... so I thought I would try it on myself,” she said. “I hated [having the medical condition] all my life but it has allowed me to work out this method which is very successful.”
Her invention has taken her across Asia. She received funding from charity Interplast Australia to train people to make pressure garments in Bangladesh last year, before being funded to travel to Cambodia in 2010.
“Somebody is presented to us with horrific burns, terrible scarring, and we have to come up with a design to try and put pressure on that particular area to get the fluid out of there and to soften the scarring,” she added.
Acid attack survivor Khov Srey Neang has seen the positive effects of the project. She arrived at CASC three months ago with her five-year-old daughter, after a neighbour doused her in acid following an argument, burning her face, arms and legs.
Though the 24-year-old said that “her scars will be there forever”, the tailor-made garment lessens her pain and covers her scars.
“When I do not wear them, my scars are stiff and hurt so much,” she said.
Horng Lairapo, chief of the medical and legal unit at CASC, said yesterday that the pressure garments were most effective on scars stemming from recent acid attacks.
He added that medical staff used both surgery and pressure garments to treat acid burn scars.
“The most effective use of the pressure garment treatment is usually after the wound has been healing for about three weeks. Usually, we see at around three months that the scar disappears,” he said.
In the first six months of this year, 127 pressure garments were tailor-made at CASC for 51 acid survivors. Last year, 136 garments were made at the organisation. According to figures recorded by CASC, 20 people have been injured in acid attacks so far this year.
A long-awaited acid draft law was submitted to the Council of Ministers in March, which rights organisations hope will reduce the frequency of attacks and punish the perpetrators of such crimes more severely.