Dr Samanta Lal Sen, the man with an illustrious career knew what he wanted to be from an early age. Growing up in the 50s in Dinajpur, district in the Rangpur Division of northern Bangladesh, Dr Sen encountered quite a few doctors which only cemented his aspiration to become a doctor even further.
In 1972, when he fulfilled his lifelong dream of being a doctor, his mother was proud knowing that her son is helping the people in need. Even now, his mother’s words keep him motivated. After the liberation war, Dr Sen came to Dhaka Shaheed Suhrawardy Hospital to start a new chapter in his profession at the plastic surgery unit. Initially, the thought of being a plastic surgeon sounded very glamorous to him. “We often saw plastic surgeons in movies and how they make people look so beautiful, so the idea of it excited me,”Recalled Dr Sen.
When he was transferred to Dhaka Medical College in the 80s, he experienced burnt patients even more closely. “What I experienced there is beyond explanation. The burnt patients were kept in the corridor, and no one paid any attention to them. In 1986, we appealed to the Government for the first time that we want a separate burn unit. The journey was not easy, but I must mention that my colleagues and the media helped a lot” he added.
Initially, what started as something fascinating, slowly started to get hit by reality. Looking back at those days, Dr Sen said, “With just five beds, we started the burn unit, and with time I started experiencing how intense the burn unit actually is.”
But it was not all sunshine and butterflies for Dr Sen. The man went through a lot of criticism as well. People even claimed that he has his own agendas behind it to earn some easy money. “There were so many people who doubted my intentions. There were days when I typed and printed paperwork from Gulistan before going to meet the authorities, but they would instead throw the documents on my face and never believed in the project. But I took that as a challenge, and I knew doing something good will always bring challenges” he explained.
“Often the condition of patients from outside of Dhaka worsens because it takes a lot of time to get them here. This valuable time and their lives can be saved if the government takes actions to better the burn unit facilities of hospitals outside of Dhaka too”.
Even after all of this, Dr Sen is happy to see all the positive changes that came in the burn unit. “After all the struggles that I went through, at least how far we have come with the burn unit of our country, makes me proud. Before burnt patients were neglected and left in a corner, now they have ac rooms, lifts, proper dressing facilities. I want the next generation to take it even further” proudly added Dr Sen.
The doctor shed some light upon what a burnt patient psychologically goes through. Talking about it in detail, he said, “ You and I can’t even imagine what pain they go through. It doesn’t only damage their body beyond repair; they even get mentally broken. I once remember a girl was brought into a burn unit from Sylhet. She was an acid attack victim. Her cousin threw acid on her. She used to beg us every day to let her die because she couldn’t bear the pain of dressing every day. It’s a trauma that only who suffers can understand.”
Dr Sen shared his concerns regarding how the other cities of the country also need to have better burn unit facilities. Sharing his thoughts on this topic, he said, “Often the condition of patients from outside of Dhaka worsens because it takes a lot of time to get them here. This valuable time and their lives can be saved if the government takes actions to better the burn unit facilities of hospitals outside of Dhaka too”.
As the conversation reached the end, the doctor showed his gratitude towards our Government and thanked them for their help in building an international level burn unit in our country, and he also requested the Government to do the same for other cities of the county too. He also thinks there has been significant growth in the betterment of the burn units. However, he feels we still have a long way to go.