Untold Stories: Jacqueline
May 05, 2020 ⋅ 6:30 P.M ⋅ Guadalupe Sandoval ⋅ Editor: Cate Shroedner⋅
When a person experiences a traumatic injury, it not only affects the individual but can also affect the entire family. The financial and emotional strain can be extremely draining as it has been for Jacqueline and her family.
As of the year 1989, the American Medical Association (AMA), has established the following definitions of ‘cosmetic surgery’ and ‘reconstructive surgery’ that have since then been used by health insurance companies to determine coverage eligibility.
Cosmetic Surgery: “Performed to reshape normal structures of the body in order to improve the patient’s appearance and self-esteem.”
Reconstructive Surgery: “Performed on abnormal structures of the body, caused by congenital defects, developmental abnormalities, trauma, infection, tumors, or disease. It is generally performed to improve function, but may also be done to approximate a normal appearance.”
According to the annual plastic surgery procedural statistics, there were 5.8 million reconstructive surgeries performed in the United States in 2018. Unfortunately, Jacqueline was not part of this statistic.
When Jacqueline was about two years old, she accidentally dumped a pot of boiling water and burned 36% of her body, including parts of her arm, torso, and face. What someone typically expects from a burn this severe is a series of reconstructive surgeries, however, since Jacqueline was so young at the time of her injury the best that doctors could do was ease her pain through medication and wait to see how the scarring would heal.
However, Jacqueline’s mom did not expect the wait to transpire across several years. Now that her scars have settled into her body Jacqueline faces new hurdles ahead of herself.
“I have trouble moving my arm sometimes. The scars on the side of my torso make it hard for me to move, they sometimes hurt.” She explained when asked if her scars affect her daily life.
When we asked if Jacqueline had ever had reconstructive surgery her mom said, “I was told to wait until she was older, since surgery at that age might be counterintuitive because she was still growing. [I was told] we might have to repair the new scarring as she got older… When she was a little older she got surgery, but it didn’t heal properly because she was still growing.”
“I took her to the Fundación Pediátrica de Guatemala [Guatemalan Pediatric Foundation],” Jacqueline’s mom said. “They covered some of my expenses because we were low-income.”
When we asked about any other complications, she has seen in her daughter as a result of her injuries, she quickly responded, “Her self-esteem. She struggles with people seeing her scars.”
“I love to go on runs with my dog and my younger brother,” Jacqueline said.
“And people, well they are inquisitive,” her mother added, “They always ask what happened, but it’s not their story to know,” she paused as she suddenly recalled a recent event. Her face brightened up as she told us how “Just recently … [Jacqueline] had started wearing short sleeved shirts inside the house.”
“It’s a big step for her,” she continued, “I am so proud of her,” she expressed as she looked at her daughter.
Unfortunately for Jacqueline and her family, their language barrier as well as grey areas within health insurance regulations have made it difficult for them to access the reconstructive surgeries Jacqueline seeks.
They have had trouble navigating the healthcare system and as a result, have prioritized other pressing health concerns. “Just recently, we started looking into getting her eye treatment,” Jacqueline’s mom revealed.
The upper part of Jacqueline’s face, including part of her eye, was damaged in the process of her injury. She uses her hair to cover part of her face at all times and has recently experienced rapid eyesight decline. “The optometrist told me I lack about 64% of sight on my eye,” Jacqueline admitted.
Before our interview with Jacqueline and her mother, the Advocacy Committee at Speak Out for Surgery developed a plan to help Jacqueline get the care she needs. As of right now, SOS is helping her get a proper referral from a burn specialist in hopes of later connecting her to accessible nonprofit organizations in Los Angeles that specialize in helping burn patients get treatments that are often classified as cosmetic procedures.
SOS promised to keep in contact with and help Jacqueline and her mother every step of the way. As we closed off our interview, we asked one final question, “What is an accomplishment of your daughter that you are most proud of?”
“Everything. Everything she does, is, makes me proud. I am so proud of her,” she replied as she turned to her daughter with teary eyes.
About the Author
Guadalupe Sandoval is an undergraduate student at University of California - Los Angeles.