Burnt 'miracle girl' suffers from one careless moment

Ravid, now three, has undergone hundreds of excruciating bandage changes in the surgical theater and numerous operations.

ravid sulam 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
ravid sulam 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A few seconds of carelessness can turn everything upside down and lead to a life of misery and pain. The Sulam family of Bnei Brak learned this lesson 10 months ago when a mistake by the father, Pini, caused burns over 95 percent of the body of his two-year-old daughter Ravid, 20% of his wife Ayelet's body and 70% of his own. Ravid, now three, has undergone hundreds of excruciating bandage changes in the surgical theater and numerous operations at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer since Pini - unable to get a fire going for a family barbecue in Netanya - added paint thinner to it after kerosene and oil didn't work. The 39-year-old father put the empty thinner container alongside the barbecue, causing a terrible explosion that set both him and Ravid on fire. "She didn't scream or cry; she just called me to see what had happened to her father," Ayelet recalled in an interview Wednesday with The Jerusalem Post. The mother ran to take Ravid inside and suffered serious burns herself. Pini, a professional cook in the Israel Defense Forces, was discharged from the hospital only two months ago after his legs were saved from amputation, and he is currently undergoing rehabilitation and unable to work. Ravid has been hospitalized at Sheba since the accident, while Ayelet - an engineering technician at the RAD company until the accident - runs between the hospital and home to take care of Ravid as well as her other two children, aged eight and 12. Dr. Josef Haik, director of Sheba's burns unit, says that Ravid will need operations for the rest of her life, as only on the lower part of one foot does she have skin untouched by the fire. She also lost one ear in the fire. As a child, she will continually grow, and as there is not enough skin for culturing to cover her body as it grows, she needs to undergo a special process in which all the layers of the skin are successfully multiplied and used for grafts to cover her body. The only place in the world that has been successful in clinical trials for this procedure is Shriners Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Prof. Richard Kagan, head of the hospital's burns unit and president of the American Burns Association, works. He has promised to treat Ravid at no cost over the three years she will need for the treatment to be completed. It is not known how much money the family's health fund, Kupat Holim Leumit, will pay for their stay (along with that of Ayelet's mother, who is needed to help out). Rabbi Avraham Elimelech Firer, head of the Ezra Lemarpeh Association, will help by raising money for some expenses. The Sulam family is trying to raise money to cover the huge costs that remain (Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot, branch #431, account #66656). Haik says Ravid is a "charming girl" who tries to smile, but "when she sees me, she is anxious, because I have to remove the bandages and dead skin, and it hurts. She associates me with pain." But, said the Sheba burns expert, "she has not given up on life." Haik said that although burns experts here have much experience treating victims of Palestinian suicide bomb attacks, they have not been able to grow skin with all the protective layers needed for grafting to deal with such a severe case. "A small sample of skin is taken, and it is grown on a synthetic substrate. Few places in the world have tried and succeeded, but Shriners has the most experience and best results. The technique was sold to a private company, but it has not yet been put on the market," Haik said. He explained that a continual supply of Ravid's skin would be needed as she grows, since scars can even limit her growth. Skin taken from cadavers can be used only temporarily, he said, and do not replace the victim's own skin. "In Shriners, they will try to maximize what she has," he said. Her doctor is optimistic that Ravid can improve with the experimental treatment. It is a miracle, he and the family say, that she is alive at all.