Volunteer stories

RuthAnn Fanstone, Burns Therapy

RuthAnn Fanstone is an experienced physiotherapist who volunteers her skills with ASTI and our in-country partners. In 2009 ASTI arranged for her to visit our partners in Pakistan (ASF-P) and Uganda (ASF-U). As part of these visits, she worked closely with staff in the assessment and treatment of acid survivor patients, and shared her skills and experience in training sessions with the local staff as well as other local practitioners who had been invited.

RuthAnn was kind enough to take the time to share her thoughts on the visit to the ASF centre in Islamabad, where she travelled as part of the ASTI Physical Rehabilitation Team. The team consisted of herself, burns therapist Fiona Procter, and burns care nurse Marianne Carter. This is what RuthAnn had to say about her experience:

“What I picked up in Pakistan was that the survivors had a passion for life despite terrible injuries. They loved caring for their appearance and looking in the mirror and having their photos taken with pride. This is not something insignificant when you consider that they have what the world would call major facial disfigurements. Unless the service to them was extremely special you would not have such a confident survivor who can be proud of how they look. Clearly they all want to improve the scars they have, but those I saw were positive and confident. They all seemed proactive; they wanted to do something, not sit around.

I learnt a lot from the way the ASF-P team worked and was run. The main thing was the open attitude all the staff had especially being open to learning and any suggestions of improving practice. Constructive criticism was embraced rather than taken personally because the clear priority of the team was to help the patient as much as possible, rather than advance as individuals. As yet I have not found this open attitude and willingness to embrace change to such a degree anywhere else. The team were totally enthusiastic, open, amazingly keen and quick to learn. There is so much potential in the ASF in Pakistan, primarily because of the people who are part of the team. I was also very impressed by the organisation’s flat structure. There was a real working together throughout the organisation; all staff mixed and worked well together regardless of their grade.”

- We asked RuthAnn what she thought further volunteer trips to ASF-Pakistan would mean for the organisation, the survivors, and the community as a whole?

“I think we need to evaluate what learning has be incorporated into practice and knowledge, assess the changes that have occurred to the service and care as a result of this learning, and we need to progress the ongoing learning of knowledge and skills to the next level. I think the work the staff is doing is certainly worthy of international attention, and the fact that volunteersare coming to the organisation, and showing an ongoing commitment to its work will be an encouragement and reinforce the value of their work. Generally working with burn patients is not popular and is seen as unglamorous and dirty, but the ASF had real pride in what they were doing and seemed to realise the significance of their work. I would really like to encourage this further and I think with more input real excellence can be achieved. The organisation has a wealth of talent in terms of management and human resources, and the area most in need of improvement – clinical knowledge and skills – is far easier to address than a lack of motivation or commitment. With a little additional support great results are achievable for this organisation.

The better the care, the better the outcome for acid survivors. The nature and effect of the burn injuries caused by an acid attack mean that survivors need excellent clinical outcomes to have any chance of ‘normal life’, by which I mean a life comparable to before they were attacked, or if they had not been attacked at all.”

ASTI would like to thank RuthAnn for giving ASTI and its partners so much of her time and expertise.

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