Wednesday, June 06, 2007


First published in The Jakarta Post, June 6, 2007


Alpha Amirrachman, Contributor/Jakarta

When 7-year-old Nabila was admitted to Fatmawati Hospital with burns to 70 percent of her body, plastic and reconstruction surgeon Audy Budiarti was determined to help give her a new life.

"Nabila was involved in an awful accident. She was playing on the street when a panicked neighbor threw his burning kerosene stove into the street. Nabila was immediately engulfed by flames and was badly burned," Audy told The Jakarta Post.

Audy says she shares in Nabila's sorrow and that of her family, as the accident happened unexpectedly and has changed the young girl's life forever.

"She has recovered almost 90 percent, but we had to wait for almost a year to prepare skin for a graft. It doesn't happen overnight."

A skin graft involves the removal of a section of skin from one part of the body, which is then used to replace damaged skin on another part.

Since Nabila's body was badly burned, her treatment has been a long process.

"Patience and understanding is needed from myself as the doctor, Nabila and her family," said Audy, a devout catholic.

Nabila comes from a poor Muslim family. Her father works as a cleaner at a public health center, or Puskesmas, in Depok, West Java, and her mother is a housewife.

Audy does not limit her service to the hospital where she works; she is also involved in several social work activities.

In 1998, she started involving herself in social work activities with the Indonesian Association of Plastic Surgeons (IAPS). During her involvement, she has performed cleft palate surgery on as many as 250 children throughout the country.

Audy encouraged younger doctors to join IAPS to contribute to society. She took a step back in 2002 and left the junior doctors to take over her role at the organization.

Following her departure from IAPS, Ibu Non Rawung, chairwoman of Obor Berkat Indonesia Foundation, invited her to join the foundation.

"The foundation had no facilities to help the poor," said Audy, who helped organize donations for the foundation.

Under the foundation's banner, she later traveled throughout the country to provide cleft lip surgery to children.

In order to perform these operations, she traveled to Central Lombok, East Lombok, Cibadak, Pangkal Pinang in Bangka, Sukabumi, Lampung, Soe in East Nusa Tenggara, Manado, Pelabuhan Ratu and Madiun.

Since she joined the foundation in 2002, Audy has treated 160 children with cleft lips.

Cleft lips can also affect the palate inside the mouth, which can be life-threatening. The condition is sometimes referred to as cleft lip and palate congenital deformity, or "harelip".

"Surgery to the palate inside the mouth is dangerous as it can cause heavy bleeding."

Audy was born on August 8, 1963, in Makassar, South Sulawesi, and completed her elementary and high school education in Jakarta.

Her family moved to West Nusa Tenggara when she was in elementary school, but Audy decided to stay in the capital.

"I wanted a good education, and at the time only schools in Jakarta could offer that," she recalled, adding she stayed in her family home with her aunt as guardian.

"My father is an architect and he wanted me to follow in his footsteps."

But she did not aspire to be an architect; she instead studied medicine at the University of Indonesia, much to her father's disappointment.

After graduation she left for East Nusa Tenggara province to serve her compulsory state duty from 1988 to 1992.

She was posted at a Puskesmas in Camplong district, about 48 kilometers from the provincial capital of Kupang, before moving to Puskesmas Oekabiti in Kupang regency.

"I chose East Nusa Tenggara as I did not want to go to West Nusa Tenggara where my family resided," she said, adding that she did not want to live in her father's shadow -- a renowned architect in the region.

She choose to become a specialist in plastic and reconstruction surgery -- over general surgery -- and enrolled again at the University of Indonesia.

Since 1998, Audy has worked as a plastic and reconstruction surgeon at Fatmawati Hospital.

Although she did not intend to marry a doctor, her destiny proved otherwise. She married Y. H. Haksanto, an anesthetist who works at the same hospital. They have one daughter.

Audy says that a surgeon in Indonesia cannot earn a sufficient wage from performing reconstructive surgery alone.

She earns extra money through performing cosmetic surgery.

Audy says cases of cleft lip in Indonesia, which is both physically and mentally distressing for sufferers, seriously threatens the lives of many children.

She says more plastic and reconstruction surgeons should dedicate their time to this cause.

"Every year roughly 7,000 children are born with cleft lips in Indonesia," said Audy, adding that plastic and reconstruction surgeons manage to help only about half of these children every year.

Those who wish to donate to Obor Berkat Indonesia Foundation can call 021-89905955/89905940 or visit its website at to learn more about its activities. The foundation's address is Jl. Sriwijaya Kav. V-VII, Lippo Cikarang.

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